Books

Jeffrey Bernard and Christopher Howse among drinkers at the Coach and Horses. Norman Balon presides. Credit: Rex Features

‘You don’t want to end up like us’: How I got out of Soho just in time

15 September 2018 9:00 am

On the one hand, I am supremely qualified to review this book. In 1984, bored beyond endurance after graduating with…

In August 1819, the cavalry charged a crowd of 60,000 in Manchester who had gathered to demand parliamentary reform

‘The reality was disgusting’: Peter Ackroyd slams Victorian Britain

15 September 2018 9:00 am

‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times… it was the epoch of belief, it was…

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Deep in the forest’s mysteries: The Cloven, by Brian Catling, reviewed

15 September 2018 9:00 am

Brian Catling’s great trilogy takes its title from The Vorrh, his first volume. This final book fulfills all the promises…

Alan Johnson. Credit Getty Images

Alan Johnson: the rock and roll years

15 September 2018 9:00 am

We’ve had Alan Johnson the lad from the slums of north Kensington, Alan Johnson the postman and Alan Johnson Member…

The burden of freedom: Washington Black, by Esi Edugyan, reviewed

15 September 2018 9:00 am

It’s 1830, and among the sugar cane of Faith Plantation in Barbados, suicide seems like the only way out. Decapitations…

View of Marseille from the basilica of Notre-Dame de la Garde, also known as La Bonne Mère, traditionally regarded as the city’s protectress. ‘The Good Mother intervenes at sick beds, down shadowy streets, and in the dark hours of night,’ writes Iain Sinclair [image: Getty]

How do our surroundings affect our health and happiness?

15 September 2018 9:00 am

The Wellcome Trust puts on some of the most engaging exhibitions in London and holds in its permanent collection a…

Engraving of John Law in 1720, at the height of his power: adviser to the king of France and controller-general of finance

John Law: the Scottish gambler who rescued France from bankruptcy

8 September 2018 9:00 am

The gambler who created the first stock market crash and became the richest citizen in Europe was no one’s hero, says Jesse Norman – until now

An unusual relationship: Katharine Cook Briggs with her daughter Isabel

The personality test that conned the world

8 September 2018 9:00 am

The other day in the Guardian’s Blind Date column, two participants, or victims, finished off an account of their frightful…

Sebastian Faulks (Rex Features)

Hoping to find happiness: Paris Echo, by Sebastian Faulks, reviewed

8 September 2018 9:00 am

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a serious novel must be in want of a theme. Paris Echo soon…

‘Islandia’: map of Iceland , complete with sea monsters, from the 16th-century Theatrum Orbis Terrarum by Abraham Ortelius

How a faulty map led to the discovery of America

8 September 2018 9:00 am

Reflecting on the genesis of Treasure Island, the adventure yarn that grew from a map of an exotic isle he…

Christopher Priest (Getty Images)

All things lead to 9/11: An American Story, by Christopher Priest, reviewed

8 September 2018 9:00 am

In the immediate aftermath of 9/11 many writers spoke of feeling immobilised. The scale of the attacks and the world’s…

(Image: Getty)

The scramble for the Middle East: Britain and America fall out

8 September 2018 9:00 am

One of the many pleasures offered by Lords of the Desert, which narrates the rivalry between Britain and the United…

The central image is of the middle-aged Matilda Hacker and her sister Amelia, strolling on the seafront in Kent. Dressed identically in flounced skirts, lace shawls and gaudy sashes, they were referred to as ‘the Canterbury belles’. Cover of The Illustrated Police News, 7 June 1879

The body in the cellar: another grisly unsolved Victorian murder

8 September 2018 9:00 am

Literary non-fiction demands that a respectable household is not really a respectable household — and the Bastendorffs of 4 Euston…

Blue Hydrangeas (Image: Getty)

The sight of blue hydrangeas brings out the worst in Henri Cole

8 September 2018 9:00 am

This new book, from the NYRB’s publishing arm, is in a non-fiction genre I love: short entries dedicated to an…

Pippin Star, a heifer from the Wampler herd in Virginia

The horrors of rewilding

8 September 2018 9:00 am

This unusual book begins with an account of the author’s ten-year love affair with dairy farming and an attempt ‘to…

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A paean to lesbian love: Aftershocks, by A.N. Wilson, reviewed

8 September 2018 9:00 am

The polymath writer A.N.Wilson returns to the novel in Aftershocks, working on the template of the 2011 earthquake which devastated…

Joshua Reynolds’s portrait of Tysoe Saul Hancock, his wife Philadelphia (née Austen) and daughter Eliza (rumoured to have been the child of Warren Hastings) with their Indian maid Clarinda, c. 1764–5. Eliza was Jane Austen’s cousin and later sister-in-law, and is said to have inspired several of Austen’s characters, including the playful Mary Crawford in Mansfield Park

The scourge of Christian missionaries in British-Indian history

1 September 2018 9:00 am

India’s wealth made it irresistible to the British. But over the centuries, plundering it also cost them dear, says Peter Parker

Papa and his muse in Cuba

The old man and his muse: Hemingway’s toe-curling infatuation with Adriana Ivancich

1 September 2018 9:00 am

One rainy evening in December 1948, a blue Buick emerged from the darkness of the Venetian lagoon near the village…

Karl Ove Knausgaard

The urge to purge: it’s closure at last for the tortured Karl Ove Knausgaard

1 September 2018 9:00 am

And so it comes, the final volume of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle sequence: a pale brick of a book,…

Replica of The Endeavour

A date with Venus in Tahiti

1 September 2018 9:00 am

There is something about the Transit of Venus that touches the imagination in ways that are not all to do…

As a result of willow-munching, beavers secrete salicylic acid — the active ingredient in aspirin

Busy beavers: in praise of man’s natural ally

1 September 2018 9:00 am

The British experience of beavers is somewhat limited. Most of us haven’t been lucky enough to have spied an immigrant…

Man behind bars: John Lilburne spent more than 12 years of his short life in prison or exile - THE BRIDGEMAN ART LIBRARY

John Lilburne: champion of liberty and born belligerent

1 September 2018 9:00 am

John Lilburne was only 43 when he died in 1657, an early death even for the time. But in many…

'The Charge of the 10th Hussars at Benevente (Corunna Campaign), 1809', c1915 (1928)

On the run from Corunna: Now We Shall be Entirely Free, by Andrew Miller, reviewed

1 September 2018 9:00 am

There is only one Andrew Miller. In the 20 years since his debut novel Ingenious Pain won both the James…

A woman churns butter while her customer and children wait. Below, her husband milks a cow with a calf tied to it

How scary is dairy?

25 August 2018 9:00 am

From earliest times, milk has sustained us and has inspired wondrous creation myths. Now it’s the most controversial foodstuff of all, says Joanna Blythman

Caught between fascism and witchcraft: All Among the Barley, by Melissa Harrison, reviewed

25 August 2018 9:00 am

All Among the Barley, Melissa Harrison’s third ‘nature novel’, centres on Wych Farm in the autumn of 1933, where the…