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The Spectator

19 September 2015

Why I left

I cannot be part of a movement run by half-educated fanatics

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White glazed bowl, Shunzhi-Kangxi period, Qing dynasty, 1650–70

Lead book review

The perils of porcelain – and the pleasures of Edmund de Waal

De Waal’s The White Road finds the history of porcelain manufacture shrouded in secrecy and littered with terrible disasters, says A.S. Byatt

Nixon with Kissinger and Donald Rumsfeld in 1969


Niall Ferguson's biography of Henry Kissinger is a masterpiece

Former British ambassador Sherard Cowper-Coles hails the Kissinger biography as ‘a great work about a great man by a great historian’

Herring girls had to wash their hair six times on a Saturday night to rinse out the smell


The current scarcity of herring may itself be a red herring

Donald S. Murray’s fascinating Herring Tales shows how vast shoals of this fickle fish have for centuries been appearing in our waters — only to disappear again


The perfect big bang that opens this book was too good to be true

Everyone in Bill Clegg’s psychological thriller Did You Ever Have a Family is touched by tragedy — except the reader

The dining car of the London to Liverpool express — back when croutons were still served with the soup


Sexual assault, chamber-pot etiquette, and other problems of early rail travel

Simon Bradley’s celebration of the network is likely to become a classic of social history — vivid, authoritative but never trainspotterish


A gleeful vision of the future from Margaret Atwood

The sex-filled dystopia of The Heart Goes Last reflects a writer at the height of her powers cutting loose and having fun


What drove Europe into two world wars?

Fear and nationalism, along with Nazism and fascism, are the predictable villains of Ian Kershaw’s To Hell and Back — while communism gets off curiously lightly

The shape-shifting Fens, thought to be the landscape of Beowulf and the haunt of Grendel


Spirit of place: the landscape of myth and magic

The medieval historian Carolyne Larrington finds tales of green men and black dogs still flourishing in 21st-century Britain


Life in Rio’s most infamous favela — where you have to pay the cops to arrest criminals

Brazil may be the land of the future, as Misha Glenny suggests — but living there now has become practically impossible

Leaving Afghanistan — with a pack of potential troubles


The way we treat our heroes is a disgrace

No longer the MoD’s responsibility, our traumatised ex-forces feel abandoned, betrayed and shamefully dependent on charity, according to Matthew Green’s Aftershock


Matt Ridley manages to Pangloss over the nastier aspects of evolution

Ridley’s ‘general theory’ boasts of surpassing even Darwin’s — but his vision of a utopian libertarian future looks like evolution gone horribly wrong


The history of modern Germany — within four walls

Thomas Harding’s A House by the Lake chronicles the rise of Nazism through the story of one small summer retreat on the outskirts of Berlin

Photograph by Charles Sturge

Narrative feature

Remembering P.J. Kavanagh

Christopher Howse pays tribute to the poet, soldier, actor and former Spectator columnist and poetry editor, who has died, aged 84