Books

Nights at the Lyceum: Shadowplay, by Joseph O’Connor, reviewed

8 June 2019 9:00 am

‘I am very, very pleased,’ murmured Queen Victoria in 1895, when she dubbed Henry Irving, Britain’s first theatrical knight. He…

The wildest waters in the world

8 June 2019 9:00 am

‘Below the Forties there is no law, and below the Fifties there is no God.’ Most sailors know some version…

From the Odyssey to Njals Saga: a voyage round the great myths

8 June 2019 9:00 am

Six remarkable stories shape this book. Tracing the trajectories of the Odyssey to the Icelandic Njals Saga, via the Kosovo…

My agonising vigil over my twins’ fight for life

8 June 2019 9:00 am

Memoirs about giving birth, a subject once shrouded in mystery, have become so popular that another may seem otiose. We…

Lusting after Bathsheba: Lux, by Elizabeth Cook, reviewed

8 June 2019 9:00 am

The novel is a wonderfully commodious creature. One might wish they made trousers like it, for it can stretch or…

Life at the Globe

8 June 2019 8:00 am

IN ASSOCIATION WITH THE PRINCIPAL PARTNERS OF SHAKESPEARE’S GLOBE’S 2019 SUMMER SEASON   This column concludes my brief series about…

Toy theatres on the stage: the set designs of Maurice Sendak

1 June 2019 9:00 am

Maurice Sendak’s move from children’s books to set designs was full of psychoanalytical significance, says Philip Hensher

Moon walks with the Romantic poets

1 June 2019 9:00 am

Several years ago, I was interviewing the garden writer and designer Sarah Raven at her home in Sussex when a…

Gen Xers v. Millennials: White, by Bret Easton Ellis, reviewed

1 June 2019 9:00 am

Q: What’s worse than listening to someone ranting hysterically about Donald Trump? A: Listening to Bret Easton Ellis ranting hysterically…

The London I loved: nostalgia for a dirty old town

1 June 2019 9:00 am

All cities are shapeshifters, but London is special. London is a palimpsest of places gone but not lost. Even as…

Transforming Goosefish into Monkfish: branding’s slippery secrets

1 June 2019 9:00 am

We live in a logic-obsessed world, from computer modelling of the economy to businesses run by spreadsheets. But we also…

My fictional Abimael Guzmàn turned out to be eerily accurate

1 June 2019 9:00 am

Few Peruvians today are interested in ‘the Shining Path years’, which left no traces besides 70,000 mutilated bodies and a…

The desolate beauty of the Thames Estuary

1 June 2019 9:00 am

We ought to cherish the haunted landscape of the Thames Estuary while we can. The grey hulks of old power…

Greece is the word for the New Yorker’s Comma Queen

1 June 2019 9:00 am

Mary Norris’s book about her love affair with Greece and the Greek language starts with a terrific chapter about alphabets.…

The flood-prone megacity of Wuhan on the Yangtze now has permeable pavements and artificial wetlands to soak up the water like a sponge

Towards a technological utopia

25 May 2019 9:00 am

Ingenious innovations in science and engineering could make for a healthier future for us all, says Simon Winchester

Two geishas relax after entertaining a client. Inset is the curfew bell at Asakusa, the major entertainment centre of old Tokyo. Woodblock print by Toyohara Chikanobu

Passing bells for old Tokyo

25 May 2019 9:00 am

In Edo (now Tokyo), before the Meiji restoration, bells marked the beginning of each hour. The hours were named after…

Bertrand Russell was portrayed as Mr Apollinax by T.S. Eliot, wittering incomprehensibly and laughing ‘like an irresponsible foetus’

Oddballs of English philosophy

25 May 2019 9:00 am

Charles Kay Ogden once proposed that conversations would be conducted more efficiently if participants wore masks. Apart from confirming the…

Zuzana Ruzicková. Credit: Getty Images

Bach helped me survive Bergen-Belsen

25 May 2019 9:00 am

One of the great joys of the 18th-century novella La petite maison is the way Jean-François de Bastide matches the…

Geoffrey Hill. Credit: Peter Everard Smith

Last lines on Brexit from Geoffrey Hill

25 May 2019 9:00 am

In 2012 OUP published Geoffrey Hill’s Collected Poems; they could have waited, because they’re now going to need another edition.…

Boer refugees were herded by the British into cattle trucks to be shunted into concentration camps at Bloemfontein in 1901. Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

Brutish Brits: You Will Be Safe Here, by Damian Barr, reviewed

25 May 2019 9:00 am

Damian Barr explains the upsetting genesis of his impressive debut novel, You Will Be Safe Here, in his acknowledgements: This…

Life at the Globe

25 May 2019 9:00 am

IN ASSOCIATION WITH THE PRINCIPAL PARTNERS OF SHAKESPEARE’S GLOBE’S 2019 SUMMER SEASON   ‘Small Latin and less Greek’ was Ben…

Letitia at the height of her fame in 1825. H.W. Pickersgill’s original portrait was exhibited at the Royal Academy

The celebrated poet who’s been erased from English literature

18 May 2019 9:00 am

Robert Douglas-Fairhurst describes how Letitia Elizabeth Landon went from bestselling poet to the invisible woman of English literature

Sandra Newman. Credit: George Baier

Parallel worlds: The Heavens, by Sandra Newman, reviewed

18 May 2019 9:00 am

The Heavens is Sandra Newman’s eighth book. It follows novels featuring, variously, sex addiction, Buddhism and a post-apocalyptic teen dystopia;…

Credit: Robin Hill

Gothic extremes of human cruelty: Cari Mora, by Thomas Harris, reviewed

18 May 2019 9:00 am

It has been 13 years since Thomas Harris published a novel, and the last time he published one without Hannibal…

Feminism for the Fleabag generation: The Polyglot Lovers, by Lina Wolff, reviewed

18 May 2019 9:00 am

Everyone behaves badly in The Polyglot Lovers — no saving graces. It’s a complex, shifting structure of sex, self-hatred and…