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Books

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To be astonished by nature, look no further than Claxton

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A review of Claxton: Field Notes from a Small Planet, by Mark Cocker. This journal could do with some editing, though

Edwardian London

Imagine Eastenders directed by David Lynch

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A review of Printer’s Devil Court, by Susan Hill. No gothic element is spared in this possible rival to The Woman in Black

Shackleton’s ship the Nimrod in the ice at McMurdo Sound

Flawed, unproductive and heroic: the real Ernest Shackleton

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A review of Shackleton, by Michael Smith. It’s a classic story and Smith tells it with passion and commitment – especially when he tames his clauses

16th century French soldiers

A jaunty romp of rape and pillage through the 16th century

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A review of The Brethren, by Robert Merle, translated by T. Jefferson Kline. Even when this hit French historical novel is boring, there’s a dividend

The young T.E. Lawrence in Arab dress

Secretive, arrogant and reckless: the young T.E. Lawrence began life as he meant to go on

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A review of Young Lawrence: A Portrait of the Legend as a Young Man, by Anthony Sattin. But don't expect this book to make sense of this enigmatic figure

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Wave goodbye to the weight-gaining, drunk-driving Inspector Wallander

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A review of An event in Autumn, by Henning Mankell. The detective's become more famous than the creator, so the creator's killing him off

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Hercule Poirot returns – and yes, he’s as irritating as ever

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A review of The Monogram Murders: A new Hercule Poirot Mystery, by Sophie Hannah (as Agatha Christie). It’s hard to imagine anyone doing a better job of resurrecting Poirot

The remains of the column of St Simeon Stylites at Qalat Sem’an, Syria.

The Guru of Late Antiquity speaks again

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A review of The World of Late Antiquity AD 150-750, by Peter Brown. Brown called them essays but each chapter is in fact an inspired riff on a theme

Author James Ellroy Photo: Lisa Stafford

James Ellroy’s latest attempt to unseat the Great American Novel

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A review of Perfidia, by James Ellroy. There are big moral questions and grand themes in Ellroy's new crime novel but ultimately it’s all too inflated

Burying the dead of Waterloo

Narrative history at its best – and bloodiest

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A review of Waterloo: The Aftermath, by Paul O’Keeffe. This highly recommended history is a salutary reminder that most of the actual fighting was left to our allies

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The five most depressing words in the English language? ‘And now, You and Yours’

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A review of For the Love of Radio 4: An Unofficial Companion, by Caroline Hodgson. Bet you didn’t know Arthur Scargill and Cilla Black both chose the Mona Lisa as their Desert Island Discs luxury

What, in the end, was it all for? In a French caricature of 1814, Napoleon precariously spans Madrid and Moscow and begins to topple. Fontainebleau — scene of his abdication — is depicted centre-stage

If you want to admire Napoleon, it helps not to have met Gaddafi

Books feature

Forty-odd years ago, in the early phase of the Gaddafi regime, I had the slightly mixed fortune to attend the new Benghazi University’s first degree ceremony. The university had actually been closed for months and there were no degrees to… Read more

Patrick Leigh Fermor as a Major in the parachute regiment

Paddy Leigh Fermor: warrior, writer, lady-killer and Nazi-nabber

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A review of Abducting a General, by Patrick Leigh Fermor, and Kidnap in Crete, by Rick Stroud. An exhilarating account of Paddy’s hair-raising kidnapping of a Nazi general that was ultimately of dubious strategic value

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Corin Redgrave, playing the contrarian William Roper, husband of Thomas More’s favourite child, Margaret, in A Man for All Seasons

From Trot to Thatcher: the life of Kika Markham

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A review of Our Time of Day: My Life with Corin Redgrave, by Kika Markham. An autobiography stamped by an unflinching and humane candour

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An unorthodox detective novel about Waitrose-country paedos

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A review of The Soul of Discretion, by Susan Hill. There is little pure detection in the latest in Hill’s Serraillier series; the focus lies elsewhere

Author Colm Toibin Photo: Getty

Colm Toibin’s restraint – like his characters' – is quietly overwhelming

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A review of Nora Webster, by Colm Toibin. Anyone who expects a novel about a bereaved wife with four small kids to emote wildly has obviously never read any Toibin before

‘Conversation Piece’, 1997, by Andrew Festing, Marylebone Cricket Club, featuring: Geoffrey Boycott (Yorkshire), A.P.E. Knott and D.L. Underwood (Kent); middle row, F.J. Titmus (Middlesex), R. Illingworth (Yorkshire and Leicestershire), D.L. Amiss and M.J.K. Smith (Warwickshire), front row, J.H. Edrich (Surrey) and D.B. Close (Yorkshire and Somerset); the first conversation piece is in the background

Geoffrey Boycott, the Arthur Scargill of cricket

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A review of The Corridor of Certainty: My Life beyond Cricket, by Geoffrey Boycott. An egotistical look at the life and times of the greatest living Yorkshireman

Signs of the times: the shrivelled leaves and lesion on the trunk of infected ash trees

First ash dieback, then the world's scariest beetle

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A review of The Ash Tree, by Oliver Rackham. A certain understandable I-told-you-so huffiness drives this analysis of the death of one of our prettiest common trees

Michael Palin performs on the closing night of 'Monty Python Live (Mostly)'

The hell of being Michael Palin

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A review of Travelling to Work: Diaries, 1988-98, by Michael Palin. He leads a charmed life that I wouldn’t wish upon anybody

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If you don’t think this novel is practically perfect, I’ll send you a replacement

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A review of Lila, by Marilynne Robinson. A book that makes you feel newly in love with the world

Jonathan Powell gives evidence At The Iraq Inquiry, 2010

Why Jonathan Powell thinks we'll have to negotiate with al-Qa’eda

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A review of Talking to Terrorists: How to End Armed Conflicts, by Jonathan Powell. He makes much of Blair’s success in Northern Ireland – but not all disputes are so soluble

All too briefly together: Esmond and Jessica working behind a bar in Miami in 1940

Jessica Mitford and Esmond Romilly – crusaders, chancers, spongers

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A review of Churchill’s Rebels: Esmond Romilly and Jessica Mitford, by Meredith Whitford. Esmond’s bravery and Jessica’s wit make them riveting subjects

Paul Rosenberg with a Matisse painting in the 1930s

Picasso’s dealer

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A review of My Grandfather’s Gallery, by Anne Sinclair. A portrait of an exceptional moment in French art – and its tragic unravelling

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David Nicholls’ Us: Alan Partridge’s Grand Tour

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A review of Us, by David Nicholls. The novel’s comedy is the secret of its success

Vladimir and Véra: in love for life

Nabokov’s love letters are some of the most rapturous ever written

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After the publication of The Original of Laura, Nabokov’s last and most disappointing novel in a very sketchy draft, you might have been forgiven for thinking there wasn’t much left to discover in the great novelist’s writings. If the posthumous… Read more

In the dialogue in front of Raphael’s ‘Madonna della Sedia’, Martin Gayford takes the lead

This former head of the Metropolitan finds Rembrandt boring

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A review of ‘Rendez-vous with Art’, by Philippe de Montebello and Martin Gayford. It’s a minor miracle that this book doesn’t lapse into self-indulgent meandering