Lead book review

Melanie McDonagh

Secrets of Candleford: the real Flora Thompson

When Richard Mabey was researching this biography of Flora Thompson, author of Lark Rise to Candleford, he happened to stay at a farmhouse B&B near Bath. Ambling around, he found something very curious … There were two rows of cottages facing each other, with a dusty track between them …There were clean curtains in the

More from Books

From frankness to obsession – the novels of Francis King

Gide wrote to Simenon: ‘You are living on a false reputation — just like Baudelaire and Chopin. … You are much more important than is commonly supposed.’ Something of the kind could, I feel, be said about Francis King (1923–2011), who was prolific, like Simenon (his last book, Cold Snap published in 2009 was his

I used to like George Kennan. Then I read his diaries

George Kennan, the career diplomat and historian best known for his sensible suggestion that the United States try to resist the Soviet Union ‘without recourse to any general military conflict’, is much in vogue these days, at least in Washington, where Senator Rand Paul is presenting Kennan’s theory of ‘containment’ as an alternative to George

Pick of the crime novels

Stuart MacBride’s new novel, A Song for the Dying (HarperCollins, £16.99, Spectator Bookshop, £14.99), is markedly darker in tone than his excellent Logan McRae series. Set in a fictional Scottish city where a miasma of corruption oozes out of the very stones, most of its characters are sadistic, victimised or both. The narrator, Ash Henderson,

Fairytales of racism

A preview of Helen Oyeyemi’s Boy, Snow, Bird appeared in Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists issue in April last year, the decennial list identifying 20 writers under 40 as the names to watch. The previous four novels of the Nigerian-born Oyeyemi (who was first published at the age of 18) revolve around deeply psychological

A spectacular faller in the Benghazi stakes

What an unedifying affair the war in the North African desert was, at least until November 1942 and the victory at El Alamein. As the author of this brisk study of one of its more admired practitioners writes: In no particular order, the following were casualties [i.e. sacked]: Wavell, Cunningham, Auchinleck, Norrie, Ritchie, Lumsden, Gatehouse,