Books

The Englishman who saved Japan’s cherry blossoms

23 March 2019 9:00 am

Between 1639 and 1853, seeds and scions of flowering cherry trees travelled across Japan to Edo (present-day Tokyo). Each came…

How Polynesia came to be inhabited is still one of the world’s great mysteries

23 March 2019 9:00 am

Later this month, a boat builder from Lake Titicaca in Bolivia will fly to the Russian city of Sochi to…

Nina Stibbe. Credit: Alecsandra Raluca Dragoi

Further adventures of a dysfunctional family: Reasons to be Cheerful, by Nina Stibbe, reviewed

23 March 2019 9:00 am

My ex-dentist resembled a potato wearing a Patek Phillipe. In those precious moments between the golf course and the cruise…

The empress who was just too imperious: portrait of Matilda from the Golden Book of St Albans, 1380

The queen of England who never was: the life of the Empress Matilda

23 March 2019 9:00 am

The Empress Matilda, mother of the Plantagenet dynasty, is the earliest queen of England who never was; by rights she…

Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Credit: Rex Features

Missive from a living fossil: Little Boy, by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, reviewed

23 March 2019 9:00 am

In his adopted city of San Francisco, the poet, publisher and painter Lawrence Ferlinghetti is venerated to levels nearing those…

In the pavilion of fun: Bowlaway, by Elizabeth McCracken, reviewed

23 March 2019 9:00 am

Bowlaway, Elizabeth McCracken’s first novel in 18 years, is a great American candy-colour Buddenbrooks, a multi-generational epic spanning almost 100…

The seducer and the spy: left, a reproduction of Anatoly Gorpenko’s portrait of the ‘master spy’;above, a Soviet commemorative stamp to mark Sorge’s ‘rehabilitation’ in 1961

Richard Sorge: the Soviet Union’s master spy

14 March 2019 9:00 am

Owen Matthews unveils the Soviet super spy who used ostentation as the ultimate camouflage. Nicholas Shakespeare takes a look

Saint Patrick, apostle of Ireland

Who was the real St Patrick: an evangelist or a tax dodger?

14 March 2019 9:00 am

St Patrick’s Day, on 17 March, is now regarded as a prime opportunity for Irish politicians to travel abroad on…

A late developer, like her central character: Tessa Hadley at the Edinburgh International Literary Festival

The subversive, Austenesque wit of ‘Late in the Day’, by Tessa Hadley

14 March 2019 9:00 am

Tessa Hadley is not the sort of writer to land the Booker Prize, which tends to reward writers from ‘anywhere’…

Few knew the full extent of the hostilities in the Teebee/Geebee camps

The uphill task of judging whether Tony Blair was a villain or hero

14 March 2019 9:00 am

On the day that Tony Blair left the Commons chamber for the last time (to a standing ovation led by…

Novel number 8: has Dave Eggers finally found his voice?

Has Dave Eggers finally found his voice?

14 March 2019 9:00 am

The Parade, Dave Eggers’s eighth novel, is a slim, strange book, another unpredictable chapter in the career of this hard-to-pin-down…

The cheerful manifesto of anti-ageism activist Ashton Applewhite

14 March 2019 9:00 am

Ashton Applewhite is a leading American ‘inspirer’ on how to make the most of being over the hill. She has…

‘Mother and Child’, c.1901, Pablo Picasso

Two big books on motherhood and childlessness – Catherine Mayer gets emotional

9 March 2019 9:00 am

Two intellectually hefty books explore the complementary subjects of motherhood  and childlessness. Catherine Mayer gets emotional

One of the world’s great love stories

9 March 2019 9:00 am

‘I still think he was a bastard.’ This is the opinion that Julia, daughter of the novelist Arthur, has about…

The father of American imperialism: Rough Rider Teddy Roosevelt (with a Native American companion)

America’s empire – a story of the secret and the convenient

9 March 2019 9:00 am

Where other nations disbanded their empires following the second world war, America’s underwent transubstantiation, from something solid to something more…

Making the case for multilingualism – a timely reminder

9 March 2019 9:00 am

English as the world’s lingua franca isn’t going anywhere. Why, then, should we Anglophones bother to learn another language? What’s…

Sadie Jones’s modern morality tale

9 March 2019 9:00 am

The love of money, says St Paul, is the root of all evil. The Snakes makes much the same point.…

The elusive and endangered snow leopard

In (vain) search of the snow leopard

9 March 2019 9:00 am

Alex Dehgan is clearly someone with a penchant for hazardous jobs. Even in the first few pages we find him…

The Porte des Allemands in Metz, where France meets Germany and Luxembourg

Lotharingia: Charlemagne’s much disputed legacy

9 March 2019 9:00 am

In 1919, only months after the end of the Great War, a French airman called Jacques Trolley de Prevaux, accompanied…

A delicious novel from one of our most inventive contemporary voices

9 March 2019 9:00 am

‘Food experiences,’ writes Michael Flanagan in his paper ‘Cowpie, Gruel and Midnight Feasts: Food in Popular Children’s Literature’, ‘form part…

Faber’s new ‘poetry’ collection

9 March 2019 9:00 am

If you’re unsure whether Shaun Ryder’s lyrics for Happy Mondays and Black Grape really deserve the full Faber-poetry treatment, then…

Life at the Globe

9 March 2019 9:00 am

    IN ASSOCIATION WITH THE PRINCIPAL PARTNERS OF SHAKESPEARE’S GLOBE’S 2019 SUMMER SEASON Last time in this space we…

A clear vision of Walter Gropius the man is hard to come by

2 March 2019 9:00 am

Walter Gropius was a great architect and a public figure of awe-inspiring efficiency. But what was he like in private, wonders Philip Hensher

Tobias and the angel, attributed to Titian

Angels through the ages

2 March 2019 9:00 am

A good question for your upcoming Lent quiz: where are angels mentioned in the Nicene Creed? I asked this at…

Village voices: Max Porter’s haunting new novel, Lanny

Love, death and loss in a small village – Lanny reviewed

2 March 2019 9:00 am

Max Porter’s first book, Grief is the Thing with Feathers (2015), got a lot of credit for finding original ways…