Books

War damage to mind and body

24 June 2017 9:00 am

Emma Williams salutes two books that examine close up the physical and psychological scars of war

The Koh-i-Noor (Mountain of Light) is set in the front cross of the Queen Consort’s crown

The Koh-i-Noor: the greatest blood diamond in the world

24 June 2017 9:00 am

There must be any number of self-respecting gemmologists out there on first-name terms with other diamonds, but for most of…

American-English has conquered the world

24 June 2017 9:00 am

‘There is room for a very interesting work,’ Gibbon observed in a footnote, ‘which should lay open the connection between…

Adam Thorpe’s gone girl novel looks like a prizewinner

24 June 2017 9:00 am

Adam Thorpe’s latest novel, Missing Fay, examines the lives of a disparate group of people in Lincolnshire, all touched in…

Patience Gray in 1959, photographed by a colleague at the Observer

The bewitching charms of Patience Gray

24 June 2017 9:00 am

As a food writer Patience Gray (1917–2005) merits shelf-space with M.F.K. Fisher, Elizabeth David and Jane Grigson. Fleeing from the…

She-devils on horseback: in search of the fabled Amazons

24 June 2017 9:00 am

Rumour will run wild about a society of warrior women, somehow free from the world of men. We all feel…

My father the bigamous sociopath — by Molly Brodak

24 June 2017 9:00 am

Molly Brodak, a fair, young Polish-American born in Michigan, is a winner of the Iowa Poetry Prize. Iowa: that hotbed…

Regretful nostalgia: F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1925

F. Scott Fitzgerald: haunted by nostalgia

24 June 2017 9:00 am

‘I do not like the idea of the biographical book,’ F. Scott Fitzgerald told his editor Max Perkins in 1936.…

More grimy tragedy from Joyce Carol Oates

24 June 2017 9:00 am

Early one summer’s morning in 1994, Paul Jennings Hill, a defrocked Presbyterian minister, gunned down a doctor, John Britton, as…

The Battle of Diu, India (1509), in which Lopes took part as a member of Francisco de Almeida’s victorious fleet

The greatest survival story of all time

24 June 2017 9:00 am

This is the story of a 16th-century Portuguese knight and mariner who survived alone on a lump of volcanic rock…

How the British left condoned the murder of millions

24 June 2017 9:00 am

Giles Udy did not start out with the intention of writing this book. He was in Russia about 15 years…

Spare a thought for the boys in blue

24 June 2017 9:00 am

Described by the publisher as a ‘moving and personal account of what it is to be a police officer today’,…

The bleak business of adoption tourism

24 June 2017 9:00 am

In many ways this is a very old-fashioned novel. Jerome is 53, and a lacklustre professor at Columbia; his wife,…

Study of horses by Théodore Géricault

Man and horse - the end of a special relationship?

17 June 2017 9:00 am

Sam Leith canters through a fascinating, if eccentric, history of man’s long  partnership with the horse

The Marchesa Casati as an Indian dancer by Leon Bakst (1912)

Fortuny gold and fancy gondolas: the grandes dames of the Grand Canal

17 June 2017 9:00 am

In our age of elasticated leisurewear, ready meals and box sets on telly, it is exhilarating to read about people…

Obsessed with the occult: Hitler and Helmut Schreiber, head of the Magic Circle, at the Obersalzberg in 1943

Did Hitler’s obsession with the occult lose him the war?

17 June 2017 9:00 am

When he came to power Hitler had a dowser scour the Reich Chancellery for cancerous ‘death rays’. Before flying to…

How a careless mistake led to a breakthrough in heart surgery

17 June 2017 9:00 am

In this magnificent book, Thomas Morris provides us with a thoughtful, engaging and rigorous account of how cardiac surgeons through…

Is London’s Green Belt responsible for its housing crisis?

17 June 2017 9:00 am

‘The area’s isolation has given it a strong sense of community and independence,’ runs the Wikipedia entry on New Addington.…

Shaun Greenhalgh claims to have painted ‘Before Kick-off’ (signed L.S. Lowry, 1923) and ‘La Bella Principessa’ (attributed to Leonardo da Vinci — but, according to Greenhalgh, based on a girl at the Co-op checkout in Bolton in the 1970s)

The forger who fooled the art world

17 June 2017 9:00 am

In 2006, after five decades, Shaun Greenhalgh lost his enthusiasm for the British Museum. From a very early age, he…

Tom Brown’s School Days, illustrated by Solomon van Abbe

The brutish education system that’s quintessentially British

17 June 2017 9:00 am

I used to worry that I would never be a good writer because my childhood wasn’t interesting enough. I now…

How can we adapt to a world that’s always on the move?

17 June 2017 9:00 am

Olga Tokarczuk examines questions of travel in our increasingly interconnected and fast-moving world. The award-winning Polish writer channels her wanderlust…

Eat whales - not insects - if you want to save the planet

17 June 2017 9:00 am

After school last Wednesday, I watched my five-year-old daughter pop a dead cricket on to her tongue and proclaim it:…

Parker, Edna and Richard Ford, V-J Day 1945

Richard Ford gets to know his parents – after their deaths

17 June 2017 9:00 am

One of the great challenges in life, writes Richard Ford in Between Them, ‘is to know our parents fully —…

Those we despise most are the ones we have wronged

17 June 2017 9:00 am

There’s a moment in A Boy in Winter where a young Ukrainian policeman has to escort his town’s Jewish population…

In chains of gold: Minnie Stevens, the daughter of a Massachussetts chambermaid, married Arthur Paget in 1878. Portrait by Fernand Paillet

Cash for coronets: the invasion of America’s social-climbing heiresses

10 June 2017 9:00 am

The undignified ‘cash for coronets’ deal between America’s heiresses and Europe’s nobility produced some marvellous stories, says Nicholas Shakespeare