To be topp at lat., throw your Cambridge Latin Course away


A review of Gwynne’s Latin, by N.M. Gwynne. A tutor that applies 1950s rigour to the learning of Latin

Rosie Lee anyone?

The book that brought out the Lady Bracknell in me


A review of Language!: 500 Years of the Vulgar Tongue, by Jonathon Green. Julie Burchill thinks you can have too much of a bad thing

No worries: John Updike in his late fifties, on the beach at Swampscott, Mass

Up close and personal

Books feature

What should a writer write about? The question, so conducive to writer’s block, is made more acute when the writer is evidently well-balanced, free of trauma and historically secure. It is made still more urgent when that writer is solipsistic… Read more

The Long Library at Blenheim Palace, converted into a dormitory for the boys of Malvern school in 1940

What most imperilled country houses in the 20th century was taxes and death duties, not requisition


A review of Requisitioned: The British Country House in the Second World War by John Martin Robinson


Recent crime fiction

Secondary Feature

Louise Welsh rarely repeats herself, a quality to celebrate in a crime novelist. Her latest novel, A Lovely Way to Burn (John Murray, £12.99, Spectator Bookshop, £10.99) is a dystopian thriller set in an all-too-plausible version of contemporary London. Three… Read more

Campbell’s Platform, a private unstaffed halt on the Welsh narrow guage Ffestiniog railway

The train stations that don’t really exist


A review of Tiny Stations, by Dixe Wills – a travelogue that takes in the 38 remaining request stops on the British railways


An escape from New South Wales


Shame and the Captives, by Thomas Keneally, is not a perfect novel, but this fictional account of escapee Japanese POWs is gripping nonetheless


The gambler’s daily grind


A review of The Ballad of a Small Player, by Lawrence Osborne. An insight into a gambler’s life of soulless grind

‘At the Cottage Door’, by Myles Birket Foster (1825–99)

Beauty in beastly surroundings


In The Gardens of the British Working Class, Margaret Willes follows the determined struggle of the poor to grow flowers

Churchill reading in his library at Chartwell

Churchill was as mad as a badger. We should all be thankful

Books feature

Land sakes! Another book about Winston Churchill? Really? Give us a break, the average reader may think. Actually though, as title and subtitle suggest, this isn’t just another biographical study. It’s at once odder and more conventional than that. More… Read more

Edgar Degas - Dancer slipping on her shoe (1874)

Ladies' hats were his waterlillies - the obsessive brilliance of Edgar Degas


A review of Edgar Degas: Drawings and Pastels, by Christopher Lloyd. Are great draughtsmen rarer than great painters? Here is one

(Photo: Punit Paranjpe/AFP/Getty)

A Mughal Disneyland and a ripping yarn


The Smoke is Rising, by Mahesh Rao, and The Strangler Vine, by M.J. Carter. A funny, angry view of contemporary India, and a Boy's Own picture of one of its past tipping points

Coco Chanel (Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty)

From Göring to Hemingway, via Coco Chanel – the dark glamour of the Paris Ritz at war


A review of The Hotel on Place Vendôme, by Tilar J. Mazzeo. A prism on the German occupation that gathers all of the old Paris icons under one roof

English explorers on expedition in the Sudan, 1860-63

Sudan was always an invented country. Maybe we should invent it again


A review of A Poisonous Thorn in Our Hearts, by James Copnall. This account of the secession of South Sudan makes good on its claim to portray one of the world's most interesting places

Marcus Berkmann

Roger Mortimer writes again


Dearest Jane..., by Jane Torday and Roger Mortimer, shows that there's still life in one of publishing's least expected success stories

Charlotte Moore 2

Start with a torpedo, and see where you go from there


A review of The Temporary Gentleman, by Sebastian Barry. The compulsive story of a lovable failure

Andrew Taylor

A thriller that breaks down the publishing office door


Writers' Block, by Judith Flanders, is a wicked insider satire as well as an enjoyable caper

Detail of St Christopher, 15th century, Church of St Botolph, Slapton, Northants

Wonders written on the wall


A review of Medieval Wall Paintings, by Roger Rosewell. An invaluable guide to the church art we've lost – and what survived

Joan Fontaine at home

Tea with Greta Garbo's decorator


A review of I Used to be in Pictures, by Austin Mutti-Mewse and Howard Mutti-Mewse. Photos and anecdotes from classic Hollywood's ultimate superfans

Walking tall: a Covent Garden market porter, London, c. 1922

Our leaders have betrayed the noble worker. Oh really?

Books feature

In his essay on the ‘Peculiarities of the English’, E.P. Thompson gave his theoretical definition of class: When we speak of a class we are thinking of a very loosely defined body of people who share the same congeries of… Read more

‘The Kitchen Table, Charleston’ by Vanessa Bell

If you think Virginia Woolf’s novels are good, you should try her bread


A review of Jan Ondaatje Rolls’ ‘The Bloomsbury Cookbook: Recipes for Life, Love and Art’. How to make Dora Carrington’s nectar of cowslip wine, Vanessa Bells’s scones or William Cobbett’s loaf

Lydia Davis (Photo: David Levenson)

Don't let creative writing students read this book


A review of Lydia Davis’ ‘Can’t and Won’t’. Susan Hill finds flashes of genius in Davis’ latest collection of short stories but she’s not sure everyone will


Go east – the people get nicer, even if their dogs get nastier


A review of Nick Hunt’s ‘Walking the Woods and the Water’. Hunt retraces the footsteps of Patrick Leigh Fermor across the suburban wastelands of Holland to the woods of Transylvania

(Photo: LSE)

Why don't we have statues of Michael Oakeshott?


A review of Michael Oakeshott’s ‘Selected Writings, Vol VI: Notebooks, 1922-86’. Other nations know how to honour their philosophers – and this was a major philosopher

Wall painting of a female head, Pompeii, 1st century AD

Pompeii’s greatest gifts are not all archeological


A review of Ingrid D. Rowland’s ‘From Pompeii: The Afterlife of a Roman Town’. The dead city is still capable of changing lives – Ingrid Rowland proves it

Silvia Pinal in Buñuel’s Viridiana

There was good art under Franco


A review of Jeremy Treglown’s Franco’s ‘Crypt: Spanish Culture and Memory Since 1936’. A lot of the great art and film made under Franco’s regime has been unfairly tainted by association

‘Less political satire than back-handed homage:Charlie Chaplin in a scene from The Great Dictator

Charlie Chaplin, monster


A review of Peter Ackroyd’s Charlie Chaplin. His films may have been all sweetness and light – but Chaplin's ego had few limits

Arianna Huffington (Photo: Vallery Jean/FilmMagic)

Arianna Huffington meets Madame de Menopause


A review of Arianna Huffington’s ‘Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Happier Life’. You've seen the advice a thousand times. But the person giving it is something else...