Books

Alarm bells ring when I read about grown women and dolls

7 April 2018 9:00 am

Mona — single, childless, pushing 60 — sells wooden dolls made by a carpenter friend, which she delicately costumes from…

Meeting the last Cuban fisherman to have known Ernest Hemingway

7 April 2018 9:00 am

In Havana, one week before President Obama unthawed half a century of cold relations with Cuba, I talked to the…

Migrating cranes in Vasterbotten, Sweden

The swallows that herald spring

7 April 2018 9:00 am

Sweet lovers, Shakespeare reminds us, love the spring. How can they not? All that wonderfully wanton colour, all that sensual…

Why do the Japanese despise sex?

7 April 2018 9:00 am

There are two sorts of people: those who can’t wait to grow up, and those who wish they never had…

Jacques Lacan: shrink from hell or the greatest psychoanalyst since Freud?

The selfish shrink: life with Jacques Lacan

7 April 2018 9:00 am

Peyrot, the chef at Le Vivarois in Paris, had a fascinating theory of how one of his regulars, the otherwise…

Down’s syndrome and dystopia in Jesse Ball’s Census

7 April 2018 9:00 am

Census is a curious, clever novel. It depicts a dystopia with a father and his Down’s syndrome son journeying from…

Bust of Nefertiti: ‘the Mona Lisa of the ancient world’

The enduring enigma of Nefertiti

7 April 2018 9:00 am

Often dubbed the Mona Lisa of the ancient world, the bust of the Egyptian queen Nefertiti is as immediately recognisable…

Cockney comfort food: eel, pie and mash to the sound of Bow bells

31 March 2018 9:00 am

Cockney feet mark the beat of history, sang Noël Coward, as if he had ever been east of Holborn. Yet…

Are the French right to be obsessed with their Gaulish ancestry?

31 March 2018 9:00 am

This book reminded me of Kurt Andersen’s Fantasyland — but where Andersen thinks only Americans have lost their minds, David…

Who knew that Arabic has more than 30 words for wine?

31 March 2018 9:00 am

You know you’re in good hands when the dedication reads: ‘To the writers, drinkers and freethinkers of the Arab and…

I’m in danger of becoming a flat-mind bore

31 March 2018 9:00 am

Reading The Mind is Flat is like watching The Truman Show and realising, while you’re watching it, that you are…

Love and loneliness prevail in the latest short stories

31 March 2018 9:00 am

Carmen Maria Machado’s debut collection Her Body & Other Parties (Serpent’s Tail, £12.99) takes a confident straddle across speculative fiction,…

Detail from the Ghent altarpiece by Hubert Eyck, 1423

How Christianity saw off its rivals and became the universal church

31 March 2018 8:00 am

It wasn’t crusading zeal that made Christianity a universal religion but its appeal to the poor and vulnerable, argues Tom Holland

The modern Behemoth, smiting a few mortals for the sake of the many

Think of five things you use daily that weren’t made in a factory

31 March 2018 8:00 am

Industrial factories huddle at the very edge of our world view. Most of us have never visited one, but we…

Pamela Lane in 1957, the year after Look Back in Anger was first performed. On seeing the play, she was heard to exclaim: ‘Oh no, not the ironing board...’

First wife, enduring love: the passionate affair of John Osborne and Pamela Lane

31 March 2018 8:00 am

Look Back in Anger, John Osborne’s 1956 play, was a fertile cultural seedbed: out of it sprouted the Angry Young…

Still waters run deep in Keflavik, where Geirfinnur Einarsson vanished in November 1974

False confessions to murder in 1970s Iceland

31 March 2018 8:00 am

Everyone in Iceland has heard of Gudmunder and Geirfinnur. They were two (unrelated) men who disappeared in 1974, albeit ten…

‘Spanish troops loot a village in Flanders during the Thirty Years War’, by Sebastian Vrancx

Simplicius Simplicissimus and the horrors of the Thirty Years’ War

31 March 2018 8:00 am

On 23 May 1618, Bohemian Protestants pushed two Catholic governors and their secretary through the windows of Prague Castle, in…

Ragged spectres, half sunk in mud, half lost in shadow: Joseph Gray’s unnerving ‘A Ration Party’

The disappearing acts of Joseph Gray, master of military camouflage

24 March 2018 9:00 am

Frances Wilson goes in search of Joseph Gray, whose experiments in camouflage changed the landscape of the second world war

A Book of Chocolate Saints: an Indian novel like no other

24 March 2018 9:00 am

The Indian poet Jeet Thayil’s first novel, Narcopolis, charted a two-decade-long descent into the underworlds of Mumbai and addiction. One…

Juliette Gréco and Miles Davis at the Salle Pleyel, Paris, c. 1949

Paris at its most liberated: the turbulent 1940s

24 March 2018 9:00 am

We all have our favourite period of Parisian history, be it the Revolution, the Belle Époque or the swinging 1960s…

Why are there no pubs called after Lord North? Portrait of the prime minister by Batoni

Why are there no pubs called after Lord North?

24 March 2018 9:00 am

If you associate Lord Salisbury more with a pub than with politics, here is Andrew Gimson to the rescue, with…

The Friendly Ones: a novel about prejudice of all kinds

24 March 2018 9:00 am

Readers should skim past the blurb of The Friendly Ones. The novel is about prejudice, of many different kinds; but…

For some soldiers, the VC was easier to win than to wear

24 March 2018 9:00 am

‘The Victoria Cross,’ gushed a mid-19th-century contributor to the Art Journal, ‘is thoroughly English in every particular. Given alike to…

From a Low and Quiet Sea: making art from a perilous journey

24 March 2018 9:00 am

Donal Ryan is one of the most notable Irish writers to emerge this decade. So far he has produced five…

St Paul by El Greco

From persecutor to preacher: the journey of St Paul

24 March 2018 9:00 am

Saint Paul is unique among those who have changed the course of history — responsible not just for one but…