Books

Gerry Adams: from jail to the Dail

4 November 2017 9:00 am

When I recently asked a sardonic Northern Irish friend what historical figures Gerry Adams resembled, the tasteless reply came back:…

Blue and Yellow Macaw, c.1834

Edward Lear: where art and nonsense collide

14 October 2017 9:00 am

Peter Parker on the modest, melancholy and astonishingly gifted painter and author

Princess Margaret at the races in Kingston, Jamaica in 1955

Princess Margaret: a darkly glamorous tale

14 October 2017 9:00 am

Princess Margaret was everywhere on the bohemian scene of the 1960s and 1970s. She hung out with all the famous…

Richard Nixon in September 1968

Richard Nixon: the nightmare president of his age

14 October 2017 9:00 am

In this giant, prodigiously sourced and insightful biography, John A. Farrell shows how Richard Milhous Nixon was the nightmare of…

‘My witchcraft is going well’: The crazed Eva Rausing, photographed shortly before her death

All about Eva: Sigrid Rausing’s shocking portrait of her sister-in-law

9 September 2017 9:00 am

It’s awful, but the surname Rausing (once synonymous only with the Tetrapak fortune) now summons up a terrible stench in…

Self-portrait, with his wife Margaret

The dazzling vision of Thomas Gainsborough

12 August 2017 9:00 am

Working in semi-darkness, Thomas Gainsborough produced some of the airiest, most poetic paintings imaginable, says Philip Hensher

General Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck in 1917

General Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck: the Lion of German East Africa

12 August 2017 9:00 am

What’s going on with book reviews? Here is the Pulitizer prizewinning (for ‘criticism’) Michael Dirda in the Washington Post, on…

Miss Muriel Matters: fearless campaigner for female suffrage

12 August 2017 9:00 am

On the evening of 28 October 1908, two unremarkable middle-class women wearing heavy overcoats gained admission to the Ladies’ Gallery,…

The maestro could hear if a single player was doing something wrong, even in the most noisy tutti

Toscanini and the morality of conducting

5 August 2017 9:00 am

Toscanini’s simple set of values made him certain of the rights and wrongs of everything, says Michael Tanner – except regarding women

Michael Kidson — in a class of his own

5 August 2017 9:00 am

The Enigma of Kidson is a quintessentially Etonian book: narcissistic, complacent, a bit silly and ultimately beguiling. It is the…

The Brooklyn Bridge: a masterpiece of engineering and a unifying symbol after a divisive civil war

The Brooklyn Bridge — an engineering masterpiece and symbol of unity

10 June 2017 9:00 am

Before Brooklyn exceeded it in cool, Manhattanites spoke dismissively of BNTs. These were the Bridge ‘n’ Tunnel folk, the out-of-towners…

Frank Buckland at home with his caged monkeys

Anyone for pickled horse tongue, boiled elephant’s trunk or rhinoceros pie?

10 December 2016 9:00 am

Forgotten? Though I can rarely attend their dinners (in Birmingham), I am a proud member of the Buckland Club (motto:…

Julie Harris in the 1963 film The Haunting, based on Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House

Shirley Jackson, high priestess of horror, finally gets the recognition she deserves

3 December 2016 9:00 am

A film critic friend, astonished that I had never heard of Shirley Jackson, told me to go and read her…

Before she was 40, Anne Barnard had had at least 20 serious suitors and 11 marriage proposals

Anne Barnard: a portrait of a very unusual lady

5 November 2016 9:00 am

Lady Anne Barnard is a name that means almost nothing today, but her story is a remarkable one. She defied…

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…

Albert Camus photographed at home in 1947

The sheer strangeness of Albert Camus’s imagination

15 October 2016 9:00 am

Looking for the Outsider is the biography of a novel, from conception through publication to critical reception. Alice Kaplan’s life-story…

Julie Christie as Lara in David Lean’s 1965 film

The true story of Dr Zhivago’s Lara

27 August 2016 9:00 am

Between agreeing to review this book and receiving it, I got worried. Like many, I adore Doctor Zhivago with its…

Sir Maurice Oldfield: a spymaster smeared

27 August 2016 9:00 am

In March 1981 Margaret Thatcher went to the hospital bedside of Maurice Oldfield, the former head of the Secret Intelligence…

‘Stack building, Malvern Hills’, by Laura Knight

A.E. Housman: the laureate of repression

2 July 2016 9:00 am

A.E. Housman’s poems leave us with the impression of fire that has been carefully wrapped in ice, says Robert Douglas-Fairhurst

Portrait of Marie Antoinette by Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun

How a Swiss banker’s bungling led to the French Revolution

2 July 2016 9:00 am

France’s problems today should lessen the condescension of posterity towards Louis XVI. Presidents of the Republic have proved just as…

The waggle-dance of the honeybees

Bees, Nazis and the Nobel prize: the amazing life of Karl von Frisch

25 June 2016 8:00 am

The Dancing Bees is a romantic title, evoking fantasy and fairy tale rather than scientific rigour, but actually this book…

Portrait of Dante in Giotto’s fresco in the Podestà Chapel, the Bargello, Florence

The secrets of Dante’s marriage

21 May 2016 9:00 am

Unlike Shakespeare, who kept himself out of all his works, except the Sonnets, Dante was endlessly reworking his autobiography, even…

Emil Zátopek at the height of his powers

Emil Zátopek: a legend from athletics’ golden age of innocence

7 May 2016 9:00 am

The story of the Czechoslovak runner Emil Zátopek is a tale from athletics’ age of innocence. Without the aid of…

A portrait by Edward Savage of the Washingtons at home, with two of Martha’s grandchildren, adopted by her after the death of their parents

George and Martha Washington were an odd first First Couple

5 December 2015 9:00 am

Frances Wilson on America’s likeable, if unlikely, first First Couple

Guy Burgess

James Klugmann and Guy Burgess: the wasted lives of spies

5 December 2015 9:00 am

Geoff Andrews’s ‘Shadow Man’, James Klugmann, was the talent-spotter, recruiter and mentor of the Cambridge spy ring. From 1962, aged…