Books

From Grayson Perry’s Sketchbooks

Self-portrait as Margaret Thatcher in a pink power-suit — by Grayson Perry

16 April 2016 9:00 am

Well, he’s back. Though you’d be forgiven for thinking he’d never been away. Fresh from delivering the Reith lectures, exhibitions…

Vita Sackville-West, c. 1940

More family history from Knole and Sissinghurst

16 April 2016 9:00 am

In deciding to write a book about her forebears and herself, Juliet Nicolson follows in their footsteps. Given that her…

Author David Szalay (Photo:  Getty)

All That Man Is: a novel view of masculinity

16 April 2016 9:00 am

‘Insufficiency’ is a favourite David Szalay word. The narrator of his previous novel, Spring, suffered from ‘insufficiency of feeling’; in…

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The life of Thomas De Quincey: a Gothic horror story

9 April 2016 9:00 am

Frances Wilson’s biography of Thomas De Quincey, the mischievous, elusive ‘Pope of Opium’, makes for addictive reading, says Hermione Eyre

The Siege of Troy (Musée des Beaux-Arts, Blois, 17th century)

A woman’s version of the Trojan War

9 April 2016 9:00 am

The Iliad begins with a grudge and ends with a funeral. In between are passages, if not necessarily of boredom,…

St Paul's Cathedral, The Great Fire of London, 1666 (Photo: Getty)

When London burned like rotten sticks

9 April 2016 9:00 am

Spectator readers know Andrew Taylor from his reviews of crime fiction. Many will also know him as an admirable writer…

The works by Quentin Blake are from the Neonatal Unit at Angers Maternity Hospital, France (2012).

Quentin Blake brings comfort and joy

9 April 2016 9:00 am

His professional achievements aside, Quentin Blake’s life has been rather short on biographical event, so this book is not a…

melting iceberg, global warming background

The Sunlight Pilgrims: a chilling tale of the new Ice Age

9 April 2016 9:00 am

Every second novel is fated to be measured against its predecessor; and that comparison is particularly hard when the debut…

Soviet living

Sex behind the scenes at Sofia’s National Palace of Culture

9 April 2016 9:00 am

Garth Greenwell’s debut novel is as dreary and oppressive as the Soviet-era apartment buildings among which it takes place. But…

Rebel with a cause: Patrick Pearse (Photo: Getty)

The Easter Rising’s road to hell — paved with good intentions

9 April 2016 9:00 am

While reading this book in a London café, I was politely buttonholed by an Irishman: ‘Sorry to disturb you, but…

The writer Natalie Barney and painter Romaine Brooks in Paris c. 1915

From Auden to Wilde: a roll call of gay talent

9 April 2016 9:00 am

The Comintern was the name given to the international communist network in the Soviet era, advancing the cause wherever it…

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The heartbreaking story of becoming homeless in America

9 April 2016 9:00 am

This is a very upsetting book. The Harvard sociologist Matthew Desmond spent a year and a half living in low-income…

Mary Magdalene by Francesco Ubertini, il Bacchiacca

Mary Magdalene: all-singing, all-dancing Goddess of Light

9 April 2016 9:00 am

Many of the great faith narratives (the Holy Quran being a notable exception) are clumsy, rough-hewn things; makepiece amalgams of…

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Riots and gang warfare provide the spark for the best latest thrillers

9 April 2016 9:00 am

All it takes is a spark. In her compelling new thriller, Ten Days (Canongate, £14.99), Gillian Slovo tracks the progress…

Aung San Suu Kyi with military officials at the swearing-in of President Htin Kyaw, 30 March 2016

Has Aung San Suu Kyi become a puppet of Burma’s generals?

9 April 2016 9:00 am

Peter Popham is commendably quick off the blocks with this excellent account of the run-up to last November’s Burmese general…

‘Like Georgia O’Keefe, Mapplethorpe eroticised flowers — possibly finding them more biddable than his frisky partners in gimp masks and chains.’ Left: Self-portrait, 1982. Right: Calla Lily

Robert Mapplethorpe: bad boy with a camera

2 April 2016 9:00 am

Robert Mapplethorpe made his reputation as a photographer in the period between the 1969 gay-bashing raid at the Stonewall Inn…

In 1600 Muhammad al-Annuri arrived in England, as the Moroccan ambassador, to propose an Anglo-Moroccan alliance. Shakespeare probably started writing Othello six months later

Gloriana and the Sultan — England’s unlikely alliance

2 April 2016 9:00 am

The idea for a mechanical cock was never going to work. In 1595 the English ambassador to Constantinople, Edward Barton,…

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Death and retribution in Beersheba

2 April 2016 9:00 am

Nordic noir is passé. Now we have Israeli noir. Waking Lions is a mordant thriller written by a clinical psychologist…

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POOF... BOOM... POW! Daniel Clowes’s new graphic novel descends into magic

2 April 2016 9:00 am

If you could travel back in time, would you kill Hitler’s mother, seek out your old house and play ball…

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South Africa’s Heart of Darkness

2 April 2016 9:00 am

Trencherman was first published in Afrikaans in 2006 and translated into English for a South African readership shortly afterwards, but…

George Bell in his study at Chichester Palace in 1943

George Bell: witness to the truth

2 April 2016 9:00 am

George Bell (1883–1958) was, in many respects, a typical Anglican prelate of his era. He went to Westminster and Christ…

‘Beachy Head’ by Eric Ravilious

Let there be light

2 April 2016 9:00 am

There has been extraordinarily little bright sunlight in the far northwest corner of Britain over the past year. Damp, drizzling…

George Harrison and Eric Clapton perform at the Concert for Bangladesh, 1971 (Photo: Getty)

Was 1971 really the best ever year for music?

2 April 2016 9:00 am

According to David Hepworth, the year he turned 21 was also the year when ‘a huge proportion of the most…

Preparing for modern warfare: Indian infantrymen c. 1940

The making of modern India

26 March 2016 9:00 am

The sacrifices made by India on the Allies’ behalf in the second world war would profoundly affect the country’s future for better or worse, says Philip Hensher

Caroline Jones at prep school in Lesotho. Image courtesy of Caroline Jones/Little Brown

How to have your cake — and not eat it

26 March 2016 9:00 am

Sitting at her desk at the BBC in March 2006, researching a documentary about the Olympic Games, Caroline Jones pressed…