Books

The China-Russia East Route pipeline under construction in 2017. At 3,968 km in length, it is designed to carry 38 billion cubic metres of natural gas from Russia’s Far East to Shanghai. [Getty]

China’s power grab steps up apace

1 December 2018 9:00 am

Five years ago President Xi Jinping gave a speech in Kazakhstan, launching the ‘Silk Road Economic Belt’, a wildly ambitious…

Jeeves and Bertie Wooster by Roger Payne. [Bridgeman Images}

Bertie takes on the Black Shorts: Jeeves and the King of Clubs, by Ben Schott, reviewed

1 December 2018 9:00 am

In 2016, inspired by reports that Donald Trump’s butler had recommended the assassination of Barack Obama, Ben Schott wrote a…

Val d’Aran in the Catalan Pyrenees [Getty}

The peculiar allure of the Pyrenees

1 December 2018 9:00 am

On 26 August 1880 Henry Russell consummated his marriage in an unusual way. He was, to his own mind, married…

‘The Artist’s Wife Reading’ by Albert Bartholomé, 1883. From Books Do Furnish a Painting

Couldn’t artists let one read when sitting for them?

1 December 2018 9:00 am

The 20th-century painter Balthus once suggested that the author of a book about him began with the words: ‘Balthus is…

R.O. Kwon, author of The Incendiaries. Photo: Smeeta Mahanti

The I’s have it: the latest debut novels reviewed

1 December 2018 9:00 am

The large number of novels written in the first person would suggest it’s an easy voice to pull off: that…

The Earl of Southampton, to whom Shakespeare dedicated ‘The Rape of Lucrece’. [Getty]

Shakespeare as political pamphleteer

1 December 2018 9:00 am

Shakespeare’s Rape of Lucrece is a puzzling and often terrible poem. Lucrece, the devout wife of Collatine, is raped by…

Helen Mirren in the title role of Phèdre, in the 2009 production at the National directed by Nicholas Hytner. ‘I was honoured to be involved in the very first NT Live broadcast,’ she writes in her foreword to Dramatic Exchanges. ‘Suddenly we were performing to many thousands of people’

Rows backstage at the National Theatre

1 December 2018 9:00 am

It is, proclaimed Charles Wyndham in 1908, ‘an institution alien to the spirit of our nation’. The alien having long…

Marie Colvin, a year before her death. [Rex Features]

For Marie Colvin, mortal danger was what made life worth living

1 December 2018 9:00 am

When Britain finally lowered the flag in the Iraqi city of Basra in 2007, the army’s top brass valiantly claimed…

Hermann Hesse in 1956 [Getty Images]

Hermann the Good German: the mystic life of Hermann Hesse

24 November 2018 9:00 am

Hermann Hesse lived through the worst of times in Germany, but remained oddly aloof. What should we make of this most unusual novelist, wonders Philip Hensher

Mansa Musa, King of Mali, holds a sceptre and golden orb in a detail from the Catalan Atlas, 1375

In the realms of gold: exploring Africa’s rich history

24 November 2018 9:00 am

The main attraction in the Kenyan port of Mombasa is Fort Jesus, a vast, ochre-coloured bastion overlooking the Indian Ocean.…

Rat and Mole pay a visit to Toad Hall in Kenneth Grahame’s classic

Kenneth Grahame: another boy who wouldn’t grow up

24 November 2018 9:00 am

The title of Matthew Dennison’s new biography of the man who wrote The Wind in the Willows appears to nod…

After 70 years, has the Prince of Wales learnt nothing about the monarch’s role?

24 November 2018 9:00 am

Republicans hate to admit it, but the stability brought by the long reign of that most careful of monarchs Elizabeth…

Uwe Johnson at his desk [Getty]

Uwe Johnson’s Anniversaries is an astonishing achievement

24 November 2018 9:00 am

The most striking and difficult aspect of this novel is its incredible scale. How can a reviewer best discuss an…

All mothers should receive Penny Junor’s book on the Queen’s corgis for Christmas. [Getty Images]

Christmas crackers: the season’s best gift books

24 November 2018 9:00 am

The ‘gift books’ are out again, piled high in Waterstones, books that have only one reason to exist: to be…

The second richest woman in England: Bess of Hardwick as Countess of Shrewsbury. (English School, 16th century)

Bess of Hardwick: Tudor England’s other great Elizabeth

24 November 2018 9:00 am

Bess of Hardwick — who died Elizabeth Talbot, Countess of Shrewsbury — was a remarkable and fascinating woman. The wife…

A full-size copy of the Mona Lisa contains, within her eye, another copy of the original, (including the picture frame).Measuring less than a sqmm, it was painted by Willard Wigan with one of his eyelashes. The double portrait was on sale in 2017 for £1million

Small but perfectly formed: the charm of the world in miniature

24 November 2018 9:00 am

You will doubtless recall the model villages of your childhood holidays: the cold rain beating down upon you as you…

The Battle of Vigo, 1702. [Getty Images]

Plucky upstarts: the brave history of seapowers

24 November 2018 9:00 am

The sea — that wine-dark whale road, to mix Homeric and Anglo-Saxon evocations of it — has always held a…

Anne Lister: Regency flirt and expert seducer of women

24 November 2018 9:00 am

In the winter of 1820–1 a 29-year old woman named Anne Lister went to stay with some female friends who…

Books of the year – part two

17 November 2018 9:00 am

Daniel Swift I feel as though I came late to the Sarah Moss party. Nobody told me she was this…

Saul Bellow, photographed in Paris in 1982. Extraordinary literary intelligence saw him through the mess of his own life

Saul Bellow: love the work, if not the man

17 November 2018 9:00 am

Boxing writers sometimes try to make comparisons across weight groups. They used to say, for example, that Floyd Mayweather was…

Alexander Chee. Credit Bloomsbury Publishing

Does an autobiographical novel really count as fiction?

17 November 2018 9:00 am

Orhan Pamuk, writing about Vladimir Nabokov’s masterful memoir Speak, Memory, noted that there was a particular ‘thrill’ for the writer…

‘Attack on the Sealkote mutineers by General Nicholson’s Irregular Cavalry, 1857.’ Illustration by Charles Ball

The Lion of the Punjab: the short, brutish career of John Nicholson

17 November 2018 9:00 am

‘I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion’, said Winston Churchill as prime minister in 1942,…

A river of green topiary cascades down the terrace steps at West Dean. Cotoneaster horizontalis covers the wall on the right

Top topiary: the year’s best gardening books

17 November 2018 9:00 am

There are probably no more gifted professional gardeners in England than Jim Buckland and Sarah Wain, husband and wife and…

Kurt Eisner and friends plan a brave new world. Credit. Getty Images

Dreams of utopia before the Nazi nightmare

17 November 2018 9:00 am

Today Munich is a prosperous and peaceful place — Germany’s most affluent, attractive city. Wandering its leafy avenues, lined with…

David Garrick in Shakespeare’s Richard III, painted by Francis Hayman

What was the celebrated Garrick really like as an actor?

17 November 2018 9:00 am

The age of Garrick, Norman Poser, a law professor, insists, gave us much of what we take for granted today…