Books

Handel is rowed in a gondola on the Thames, in an illustration for ‘The Water Music’

Handel’s greatest hits — the glorious London decades

15 September 2018 9:00 am

Paul Kildea describes the glorious decades when Handel bcharmed London society with one masterpiece after another

Obama reads a letter from a citizen pleading for Health Care Reform in March 2010. Credit: Getty Images.

Dear Mr President: the ‘little people’ write to Obama

15 September 2018 9:00 am

President George Washington received about five letters a day and answered them all himself. By the end of the 19th…

Patrick Gale. Credit Markus Bidaux

Playing for time

15 September 2018 9:00 am

In a pleasing nod to Marcel Proust, Eustace, the middle-aged protagonist of Patrick Gale’s new novel, is propelled into memories…

Blinded by love: Sylvia Plath with her son Nick in Devon in 1962

‘Ted is liar. Ted beats me up. Ted wishes me dead’: Sylvia Plath descends into madness and misery

15 September 2018 9:00 am

In 1923, a Frenchman, Emile Coué, persuaded millions of Americans to finger a piece of string with exactly 20 knots.…

Lord Carrington. Credit: Getty Images

Peter Carrington: loyal, funny and driven by a sense of duty

15 September 2018 9:00 am

‘I’m sorry to bother you, Peter, but you were a famously successful Leader of Their Lordships and I wondered whether…

Mohammed Kabir, aged 105, in a garden he created in the courtyard of the ruined Darulaman Palace in Kabul for the soldiers stationed there

Bombs and begonias: gardening in a war zone

15 September 2018 9:00 am

During the civil war in Afghanistan in the late 1980s, Mr and Mrs Roami, a science professor and a nurse,…

Harvey Milk. Credit Getty Images

The ‘other’ life of Harvey Milk

15 September 2018 9:00 am

This is the story of the ‘other’ Harvey Milk. We all know about Harvey the San Francisco politician who was…

Jan Morris. Credit: Colin McPherson/Getty Images

Jan Morris talks to herself — about music, irony and cats

15 September 2018 9:00 am

To Jan Morris, I am anathema. That goes, too, for David Attenborough. It is a word that this unarguably great…

Philip Marlowe’s last case? Only to Sleep, by Lawrence Osborne, reviewed

15 September 2018 9:00 am

Only to Sleep is the third Philip Marlowe novel written by someone other than Raymond Chandler and while the authors…

Sally Rooney. Credit: Jonny L. Davies

A friendship in flux: Normal People, by Sally Rooney, reviewed

15 September 2018 9:00 am

‘Marianne had the sense that her real life was happening somewhere very far away, happening without her, and she didn’t…

Jeffrey Bernard and Christopher Howse among drinkers at the Coach and Horses. Norman Balon presides. Credit: Rex Features

‘You don’t want to end up like us’: How I got out of Soho just in time

15 September 2018 9:00 am

On the one hand, I am supremely qualified to review this book. In 1984, bored beyond endurance after graduating with…

In August 1819, the cavalry charged a crowd of 60,000 in Manchester who had gathered to demand parliamentary reform

‘The reality was disgusting’: Peter Ackroyd slams Victorian Britain

15 September 2018 9:00 am

‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times… it was the epoch of belief, it was…

Getty Images

Deep in the forest’s mysteries: The Cloven, by Brian Catling, reviewed

15 September 2018 9:00 am

Brian Catling’s great trilogy takes its title from The Vorrh, his first volume. This final book fulfills all the promises…

Alan Johnson. Credit Getty Images

Alan Johnson: the rock and roll years

15 September 2018 9:00 am

We’ve had Alan Johnson the lad from the slums of north Kensington, Alan Johnson the postman and Alan Johnson Member…

The burden of freedom: Washington Black, by Esi Edugyan, reviewed

15 September 2018 9:00 am

It’s 1830, and among the sugar cane of Faith Plantation in Barbados, suicide seems like the only way out. Decapitations…

View of Marseille from the basilica of Notre-Dame de la Garde, also known as La Bonne Mère, traditionally regarded as the city’s protectress. ‘The Good Mother intervenes at sick beds, down shadowy streets, and in the dark hours of night,’ writes Iain Sinclair [image: Getty]

How do our surroundings affect our health and happiness?

15 September 2018 9:00 am

The Wellcome Trust puts on some of the most engaging exhibitions in London and holds in its permanent collection a…

Engraving of John Law in 1720, at the height of his power: adviser to the king of France and controller-general of finance

John Law: the Scottish gambler who rescued France from bankruptcy

8 September 2018 9:00 am

The gambler who created the first stock market crash and became the richest citizen in Europe was no one’s hero, says Jesse Norman – until now

An unusual relationship: Katharine Cook Briggs with her daughter Isabel

The personality test that conned the world

8 September 2018 9:00 am

The other day in the Guardian’s Blind Date column, two participants, or victims, finished off an account of their frightful…

Sebastian Faulks (Rex Features)

Hoping to find happiness: Paris Echo, by Sebastian Faulks, reviewed

8 September 2018 9:00 am

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a serious novel must be in want of a theme. Paris Echo soon…

‘Islandia’: map of Iceland , complete with sea monsters, from the 16th-century Theatrum Orbis Terrarum by Abraham Ortelius

How a faulty map led to the discovery of America

8 September 2018 9:00 am

Reflecting on the genesis of Treasure Island, the adventure yarn that grew from a map of an exotic isle he…

Christopher Priest (Getty Images)

All things lead to 9/11: An American Story, by Christopher Priest, reviewed

8 September 2018 9:00 am

In the immediate aftermath of 9/11 many writers spoke of feeling immobilised. The scale of the attacks and the world’s…

(Image: Getty)

The scramble for the Middle East: Britain and America fall out

8 September 2018 9:00 am

One of the many pleasures offered by Lords of the Desert, which narrates the rivalry between Britain and the United…

The central image is of the middle-aged Matilda Hacker and her sister Amelia, strolling on the seafront in Kent. Dressed identically in flounced skirts, lace shawls and gaudy sashes, they were referred to as ‘the Canterbury belles’. Cover of The Illustrated Police News, 7 June 1879

The body in the cellar: another grisly unsolved Victorian murder

8 September 2018 9:00 am

Literary non-fiction demands that a respectable household is not really a respectable household — and the Bastendorffs of 4 Euston…

Blue Hydrangeas (Image: Getty)

The sight of blue hydrangeas brings out the worst in Henri Cole

8 September 2018 9:00 am

This new book, from the NYRB’s publishing arm, is in a non-fiction genre I love: short entries dedicated to an…

Pippin Star, a heifer from the Wampler herd in Virginia

The horrors of rewilding

8 September 2018 9:00 am

This unusual book begins with an account of the author’s ten-year love affair with dairy farming and an attempt ‘to…