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Dogged by ill fortune

Sir Ranulph Fiennes has done Captain Scott’s memory some service. For the past two decades, since Roland Huntford’s devastating demolition job — Scott bad, Amundsen good — was first published (also by Hodder & Stoughton) in 1979, ‘the world’s greatest explorer’ has dropped quite a few places in the league table. Fiennes may not have

A soldier breaks ranks

Here’s a good rule of thumb: never read a book by a politician running for office. Whether it is George W. Bush’s folksy evangelism in A Charge to Keep or the then Opposition Leader Tony Blair’s toe-curdlingly awful New Britain: My Vision of a Young Country, they are all the same. Safe, saccharine, ghost-written by

Getting both socks on

Children, like dogs, need to be trained. After this promising start, Cassandra Jardine sets out to offer parents some practical advice on how to teach children ‘good habits from an early age’. Heaven knows such advice is needed, not least because, as Jardine remarks, ‘Many is the time when the children of delightful parents have

Shooting lions and lines

It’s not fair to blame a book for its subject — a book by a decent fellow who delights in Africa in the wild, a book of charm and perception, thoughtfully put together on fine paper with pictures in sepia which make you see and smell the African bundu where the author followed loyally in

Rocks and guts and bullocks

Ted Hughes was the first living poet I loved. The same is probably true for countless kids who went to school in the 1960s and 70s. The general rule that classroom study engenders a lifelong dislike of poetry must make an exception of Hughes. Only a teacher of chart-topping ineptitude could prevent a child from

From the sublime to the ridiculous

Hah, that’s had you fumbling with your bi-focals, but no, there is no printing error. It is £375. The Gregynog Press, which in 1923 started its eventful history with a volume of poems by George Herbert, has now 80 years later published a selection chosen by his kinsman the Earl of Powis, with engravings by

More honest than most

It is a mark of the excellence of this memoir by the highest-ranking woman in American history, ex-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, that it could not have been written by a man. Imagine Douglas Hurd saying that the happiest years of his life were with a spouse who dumped him for a younger woman and

Solving the Polish conundrum

The Warsaw uprising of August 1944 was one of the most tragic episodes of the second world war, resulting in the destruction of the city and some 200,000 of its inhabitants. It is also one of the least well known. The fact that the Red Army had stood by while the city was pounded to