Books

‘Little Dorrit and the Turnkey’, by Arthur A. Dixon

The best of times and the worst of times — in debtors' prison

29 October 2016 9:00 am

The Marshalsea was the best and worst place for a debtor to be imprisoned. From 1438 until its closure in…

Writer and historian Jan Morris (Photo: Getty)

Jan Morris — ‘the greatest descriptive writer of her time’

29 October 2016 9:00 am

Married as I am to an antiquarian book dealer, and living in a house infested with books and manuscripts, I’m…

Fallen idol: Mercia dela Querra, the caretaker of Orania’s Verwoerd museum, sits beside the bronze head of the founder of apartheid

Orania: the desert of Afrikaner dreams

29 October 2016 9:00 am

South African democracy has not, on the whole, been kind to the Afrikaner. During Nelson Mandela’s benign oversight of the…

Patients in the tuberculosis convalescent home at Paddington, London, 1942 (Photo: Getty)

Cries and whispers in the TB sanitorium

29 October 2016 9:00 am

If you are 70-plus, the shadow of TB will have hung over your childhood and youth, as it did mine,…

Sea Ice

Button up your overcoat before settling down with Ed O’Loughlin

29 October 2016 9:00 am

Brrrrr, this is a chilly book. Each time a character put on his sealskin kamiks, muskrat hat, wolfskin mittens and…

Beef hanging

Why is it OK to eat insects but not little furry animals?

29 October 2016 9:00 am

I’m writing this in the Highlands. Through the window I can see Loch Maree, being ruffled into white-tipped skirls by…

A drone hovers between two tower blocks

A new look at cities — from the top down

29 October 2016 9:00 am

Most of us just live in cities, or travel to see them and take them pretty much as they come,…

flaubert

Flaubert — the writer’s writer par excellence — is a real challenge to write about

22 October 2016 9:00 am

If only Flaubert had spent less time writing — and sitting in his summerhouse fuming at man’s stupidity — his life wouldn’t seem such a trudge, says Graham Robb

Astrid Lindgren during the second world war. By 1945 she was suffering from depression and insomnia

Astrid Lindgren’s second world war diaries make for crisp, painful reading

22 October 2016 9:00 am

There’s a glorious scene in Astrid Lindgren’s first Pippi Longstocking book in which her fearless, freckled heroine strides to the…

Wings

Rabih Alameddine’s desperate protagonist is plagued by Death, the Devil and the ashes of former lovers

22 October 2016 9:00 am

Shades of The Master and Margarita haunt Rabih Alameddine’s sixth book, in which Jacob, a Yemeni-born poet with a day…

Rugged coast under the night sky.

It’s time Christopher Priest’s devout congregation extended beyond sci-fi enthusiasts

22 October 2016 9:00 am

Christopher Priest, now 73, has been quietly turning out oddly mesmerising fiction for nearly half a century but, like the…

His contemporaries regarded Alexander Hamilton as an ‘uppity’ half-caste who wanted to be a dictator

American politics at its most uncivil — in 1804

22 October 2016 9:00 am

To anyone complaining that American politics in 2016 is uncivil, consider this: in 1804, the vice president of the United…

Art historian Kenneth Clark (Photo: Getty)

Kenneth Clark: from the sublime to the ridiculous to the sublime

22 October 2016 9:00 am

Our collective attention spans may not be as short as is widely cited, but they are pretty short. Take the…

Harvesting apples, illustrated in the medieval handbook Tacuinum Sanitas — which stresses the fruit’s medicinal properties

Apples of discord in today’s supermarkets

22 October 2016 9:00 am

Apple Day, on 21 October, is a newish festival, created in 1990, by the venerable organisation, Common Ground. Intended to…

Steven Runciman with his parakeet, photographed by Cecil Beaton c.1923. Runciman was Beaton’s first photographic subject

Steven Runciman — historian, tease and professional enigma

22 October 2016 9:00 am

Steven Runciman, the historian of Byzantium, is a puzzling figure. He was an outrageous snob, once remarking that he would…

Being adored by Middle England as cosy and harmless drives Alan Bennett mad

Alan Bennett: one of the sharpest, funniest writers in the English language

15 October 2016 9:00 am

Robert Douglas-Fairhurst reveals that, far from being a cuddly, mild-mannered teddy bear, our national treasure has sharp claws — and a gimlet eye

ALEJANDRO ZAMBRA

The novel as examination paper: experimental fiction reaches new extremes

15 October 2016 9:00 am

Doorstoppers, slim volumes, loose leaves stacked in a box, bound pages fretworked with holes, epistolary exchanges, online postings, palimpsests…. Fiction…

The Treaty of Versailles — which made the second world war inevitable

The Treaty of Versailles made the second world war inevitable

15 October 2016 9:00 am

In 1919 the economist and sometime prophet John Maynard Keynes left the glittering ballroom of Versailles feeling profoundly despondent. The…

Why did Manet slash this portrait of himself and Suzanne by Degas — and why did Degas keep it?

The paint fights of eight great artists

15 October 2016 9:00 am

When the old curmudgeon Edgar Degas died in 1917, a stunning trove of works by Edouard Manet — eight paintings,…

Tara Browne, aged 13. Despite his angelic, choirboy looks, he always seemed much older than his years

Tara Browne: the extraordinary youth with all life’s blessings except one

15 October 2016 9:00 am

There was a touch of Raymond Radiguet, the young literary sensation of 1920s Paris, about Tara Browne. In life poetically…

Sebastian Barry

Sebastian Barry’s sensitivity to anguished humanity is too self-regarding

15 October 2016 9:00 am

The McNulty family in the novels of Sebastian Barry have a definite claim to be one of the unluckiest in…

Gender Medicine

Why women should be treated differently to men

15 October 2016 9:00 am

When I started this book, I have to admit, I did not think it would be as absolutely fascinating as…

Aethelred’s reign was not only a time of bloodshed and Viking warriors, but also of piety, learning and St Dunstan (above), who died in 988

Aethelred the Unready — still in the shadows, unloved

15 October 2016 9:00 am

Aethelred the Unready (c.968—1016) has not, as Levi Roach acknowledges, enjoyed a good press. In recent times there may have…

An 1850 engraving of slaves fleeing from Maryland to Delaware by way of the Underground Railroad

America’s slaves and the Underground Railroad

15 October 2016 9:00 am

It is difficult to write well about slavery. As with the Holocaust, the subject’s horrific nature lends itself too easily…

Margaret Thatcher with husband Dennis and Cecil Parkinson at the window of No 10 Downing Street in1985. Photo: Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corbis

Four men pay court to Mrs Thatcher

15 October 2016 9:00 am

This is a strange book. Peter Stothard, the editor of the TLS, is packing up his office. It is a…