Lake Lucerne Photo: Davide Seddo/Getty

The nervous passenger who became one of our great travel writers


A review of Pleasures and Landscapes, by Sybille Bedford. Bedford journeyed through Italy, Switzerland, France, Denmark, Portugal and Yugoslavia and vividly noted the postwar evolution of Europe

Mass Protests Are Held During The G20 World Leaders Summit

A gangster called Capitalism and its vanquisher The Common Good


A review of Mammon’s Kingdom: An Essay on Britain, Now, by David Marquand. An interesting diagnosis of why the secular Left failed Britain - with a shy attempt at a solution

Portrait Of Elvis Presley

A tribute to the King – or a compendium of journalistic bad habits?


A review of Elvis has Left the Building: The Day the King Died, by Dylan Jones. The GQ editor provides a lot of padding to the basic story, and makes no attempt to disguise it

Illustration, from World War I in Cartoons, Mark Bryant, Grub Street.

The completely ludicrous – and sometimes believable – world of the First World War spook


There can’t have been this many books about the first world war since — just after the first world war. One publishing craze of the 1920s was books about spying, in which retired war spooks gave away their trade secrets… Read more


Doctor Zhivago's long, dark shadow

Books feature

For most Russians, Boris Pasternak is one of their four greatest poets of the last century. For most Anglophone readers, he is the man who won the Nobel Prize for Doctor Zhivago. The first four chapters of The Zhivago Affair… Read more

Author, Caitlin Moran Photo: Getty

A coming of age novel? Or an age of coming novel?


A review of How to Build a Girl, by Caitlin Moran. Even before she came across a pleasing reference to herself, Julie Burchill loved this hyperactive novel

Lillian Hellman chats with her lover, author Dashiell Hammett Photo: Time & Life/Getty

Lillian Hellman lied her way through life


A review of Lillian Hellman: An Imperious Life, by Dorothy Gallagher. This disloyal Stalinist has not been blessed with a biographer who likes her

Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx with Jenny, Eleanor and Laura Marx, 1864

Caught between Marx and a monster


A review of Eleanor Marx, by Rachel Holmes. Forget her shit of a husband and her father Karl and marvel at Eleanor’s own contributions

Gay Pride, London, 1970s

The soundtracked novel that won’t sit still


A review of The Emperor Waltz, by Philip Hensher. An intriguing misstep aside, this is a rich and captivating book


The cruellest present you could give a hated old in-law


A review of Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?: A Memoir, by Roz Chast. Nothing is sacred in this graphic memoir of the author’s parents

Ursula, photographed by Cecil Beaton on the eve of the second world war

From Edwardian idyll to meetings with Nehru: the life of Lady Ursula D’Asbo


A review of The Girl with the Widow’s Peak, by Lady Ursula d’Abo, with a foreword by John Julius Norwich. A very English tale of 20th-century upper-class comings and goings

China's President Xi Jinping and Zambia's President Michael Sata

What are the Chinese up to in Africa?


A review of China’s Second Continent: How a Million Migrants Are Building a New Empire in Africa, by Howard French. A revealing and colourful set of first-hand essays that seek to understand the Chinese takeover

Portrait of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, with his pet monkey, attributed to Jacob Huysmans

Thug, rapist, poetic visionary: the contradictory Earl of Rochester

Books feature

Despite being an earl, Rochester is very nearly a major poet. His poems and letters were torn up by a zealous mother after his death, bent on destroying anything obscene or scandalous. A good deal was lost, but a lot… Read more

Slaves planting cane cuttings in Antigua, 1823, by William Clark

Only tourists think of the Caribbean as a ‘paradise’


A review of Empire’s Crossroads: A History of the Caribbean from Columbus to the Present Day, by Carrie Gibson. A vivid and thought-provoking synthesis of the disparate histories of the islands of the West Indies

A meeting between the Vichy and Nazi chiefs, 1941 Photo: Popperfoto/Getty

The cold, remote plateau of Vichy France where good was done


A review of Village of Secrets: Defying the Nazis in Vichy France, by Caroline Moorehead. Parallel to the squalid map of Vichy was a map of decency


Maigret's new clothes – this month's best new crime novel, published 1931


Plus: The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair? It's not a Great American Novel. But it is a decent thriller

Portrait of Dante by Domenico di Michelino

A divine guide to Dante


A review of Reading Dante: From Here to Eternity, by Prue Shaw. This companion to the life and work of the Italian genius will make you blink in wonder

Photo: Artpuppy/Getty

Having a moral compass just gets in the way of being smart


A review of Think Like a Freak: How to Think Smarter About Almost Everything by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. The authors of Freakonomics want to teach you to think less like the kind of people who read books

‘He thought he could have made it as a visual artist — if only more people had liked his work.’ Above: John Arlott reading (1977) and Kathy and Jessy (1963)

The gentle intoxications of Laurie Lee

Secondary Feature

He was always lucky, and he knew it: lucky in the secure rural intimacy of the upbringing described in Cider with Rosie; in the love of some passionate, clever women, whose guidance and support get rather less than their due… Read more

J.K. Rowling Photo: Getty

J.K. Rowling is just too nice – and too lucky – to satirise publishing


As a result, Robert Galbraith's The Silkworm is a toothless and inept novel

The headquarters of Britain's MI6, London

You know something’s up when MI6 moves its head office to Croydon


A review of Inside Enemy, by Alan Judd. A thriller that is plausible, curiously old-fashioned and deceptively calm in its build-up – and one of Judd’s best


The Australian literary icon who fooled her family


A review of The House of Fiction: Leonard, Susan and Elizabeth Jolley: A Memoir, by Susan Swingler, ‘a story of sex, love, family secrets and deception’

Portrait of a young woman with a bible in her hand by Johannes Thopas, 1680–85

No special pleading needed for this disabled Dutch master


A review of Deaf, Dumb and Brilliant: Johannes Thopas, Master Draughtsman, by Rudi Ekkart. Thopas was an equal of his peers - his disability shouldn’t even come into it

Viv Albertine (left) on stage with The Slits Photo: Redferns

The punk who inspired a generation of British woman to pick up a guitar


A review of Clothes, Clothes, Clothes, Music, Music, Music, Boys, Boys, Boys, by Viv Albertine. A funny, rude, tender, and superbly written memoir

‘The Final Advance of the Guard’ by Nicolas Toussaint Charlet

An old soldier sees through the smoke of Waterloo

Books feature

There is a very nice story of a dinner for Waterloo veterans at which Alexandre Dumas — ‘Dum-ass,’ as the Antarctic explorer Taff Evans would have him — was for some reason present. I can’t remember now the exact wording… Read more


Hillary Clinton’s autobiography seems destined to join her husband’s - in a bin marked ‘Free’


A review of Hard Choices: A Memoir, by Hillary Rodham Clinton. The endless clichés and pseudo-details make her sound more reptilian than she probably is


Stephen King – return of the great storyteller


A review of Mr Mercedes, by Stephen King. We know to expect the unexpected; but when the unexpected happens, it’s not the unexpected we were expecting


The man who loathed emoticons - especially :)) as it reminded him of his double chin


A review of To Rise Again at a Decent Hour, by Joshua Ferris, a novel as engrossing as it is uproarious