Books

‘He had a rather melancholy face, and the air of a transplanted hidalgo’, said H.H. Asquith of John Meade Falkner.

In praise of John Meade Falkner: poet, arms-dealer and unforgettable novelist

15 December 2018 9:00 am

A.N. Wilson on the mysterious life of John Meade Falkner

Answers to Spot the Shakespearean Character quiz

13 December 2018 4:00 am

1. Oberon (A Midsummer Night’s Dream) 2. Hamlet (Hamlet) 3. Cordelia (King Lear) 4. Dogberry (Much Ado About Nothing) 5.…

‘There is so little heartless work around. So I feel I am filling a small but necessary gap.’ Edward Gorey photographed in 1977 on the set he designed for the Broadway production of Dracula

Edward Gorey: master of the macabre

8 December 2018 9:00 am

Edward Gorey delighted in the macabre and contradictory, feeling at home with things not making sense. He was, says Sam Leith, an exquisite but very minor talent

The Queen on a Royal Tour of Pakistan in 1961.

Elizabeth II: Queen of tact and diplomacy

8 December 2018 9:00 am

In her 66 years on the throne the Queen has represented Britain on official visits to at least 126 countries…

Shades of Lord Lucan: A Double Life, by Flynn Berry, reviewed

8 December 2018 9:00 am

A young girl finds the body of her nanny, brutally murdered, and the barely moving form of her mother, a…

LEFT: Shirley Hughes is incapable of drawing a child who isn’t lovable. From Snow in the Garden: A First Book of Christmas. RIGHT: Edmund Dulac’s illustrations are as exquisite as a Persian miniature.From The Arabian Nights, translated by Laurence Housman

Family favourites: children’s books for Christmas reviewed

8 December 2018 9:00 am

There’s no shortage of magical rings in the children’s canon, the sort of things that usefully make you invisible or…

: In 2007, thousands of India’s poorest marched on Delhi to petition for land rights.

The scandalous swamp of Indian politics

8 December 2018 9:00 am

Picture India in 1991. You need to make several trips to Delhi and wait three years to import a computer.…

Andrei Navrozov.

The gambler and the hooker: Awful Beauty, by Andrei Navrozov, reviewed

8 December 2018 9:00 am

This book — the title is from Pasternak —is billed as ‘literary fiction’. The narrator, a Russian gambler and drinker…

The Sultan crosses the Golden Horn.

Tell them of Battles, Kings and Elephants, by Mathias Enard, reviewed

8 December 2018 9:00 am

Michelangelo seems never to have travelled to Turkey to advise the Sultan on a bridge to span the Golden Horn,…

Henri Landru.

A real-life Bluebeard: on the track of France’s most notorious serial killer

8 December 2018 9:00 am

From Colette to Rudyard Kipling, celebrities flocked for front-row seats at the 1921 trial of Henri Landru, the notorious ‘lonely…

From Martin Rowson’s ferocious retelling of The Communist Manifesto.

What links fairy tales, Karl Marx, Anne Frank and St Augustine?

8 December 2018 9:00 am

Its Booker-longlist nomination meant that Nick Drnaso’s Sabrina (Granta, £16.99) was the comic that everyone has heard of this year,…

Is Lionel Messi the greatest footballer of all time?

8 December 2018 9:00 am

If you don’t know who Lionel Messi is you won’t enjoy this book much. If you do, you probably will.…

Chains and planes: Turbulence, by David Szalay, reviewed

8 December 2018 9:00 am

In the opening pages of Turbulence, a woman in her seventies, who is visiting her sick son in Notting Hill,…

Michelle Obama listens to the National Anthem at the White House Correspondents Association annual dinner in Washington, May 2009

Michelle Obama: ‘I was happy that Barack’s career came first’

1 December 2018 9:00 am

Michelle Obama has always been more interested in people than votes. Her book is full of human kindness and gives politics a soul, says Hermione Eyre

Will it be kid pie this Christmas?

1 December 2018 9:00 am

A long and messy business is how the chef Rowley Leigh explains his preferred way of eating. Picking at a…

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.…