A long time ago the novelist Marghanita Laski opined that the BBC had been the greatest single influence for good upon the life of the nation since the decline of the churches. A little later my father, Huw Wheldon, called it ‘one of the great institutions of the western world’. Charlotte Higgins regards the corporation as ‘the most powerful British institution of them all’. Her history of the BBC, This New Noise (Guardian/Faber, £12.99) is intellectually coherent and a pleasure to read. It gives proper credit to the ‘pioneer of TV current affairs’, Grace Wyndham Goldie.
Bernard Cornwell’s Waterloo (Collins, £8.99) is excellent, chiefly in its willingness to tell the story from the point of view of the battle’s combatants, while never allowing the narrative — and what a story it is — to flag.
I have at last caught up with Donna Tartt’s novel The Secret History (Penguin, £8.99), which I approached in piety but finished consumed.