Lead book review

The new freedom

For me this book evokes a Gigi duet moment: ‘You wore a gown of gold.’ ‘I was all in blue.’ ‘Am I getting old?’ ‘Oh, no, not you.’ Memory plays us false, and it takes the skill of a sympathetic historian such as Virginia Nicholson to sift the evidence, written and oral, and unfold a

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Bloodbath in the Punjab

On 10 April 1919, the peppery governor of the Punjab, Sir Michael O’Dwyer, ordered the immediate arrest of two leaders of the Indian National Congress in Amritsar. Doctors Satyapal and Kitchlew were both gentle, Cambridge-educated medics who had responded to Gandhi’s call for non-violent resistance to British rule, satyagraha. O’Dwyer took the view that their

Sun, sea and spooks

Cuba meant a lot to Graham Greene. Behind his writing desk in his flat in Antibes he had a painting by the Cuban artist René Portocarrero, presented to him by Fidel Castro, who had signed his name on the back, so that Greene didn’t know which way to hang it. Another prize possession was a

In the Zone

There is nothing new about Latin America’s fractious relationship with her northern neighbour. In 1900 the Uruguayan writer José Enrique Rodó published an essay in which he pitted the spiritual in the form of Latin civilisation (Ariel) against the utilitarianism and materialism of the United States (Caliban). Ariel may have been an overblown image but,

Murder will out

When the 24-year-old Angela Gallop started working at the Home Office forensic science service, her boss lost no time in telling her that ‘a woman’s place is in the home — literally, at the kitchen sink’. Many years later, having contributed to solving some of the UK’s highest profile criminal cases, Gallop may have remembered

Spirit of place | 4 April 2019

In 1923, an earthquake with a magnitude of 9 struck Tokyo and Yokohama. A huge area of Tokyo burned. But, Ueno Park, protected by the water of Shinobazu pond, survived unscathed, as did many of the people from around Tokyo who sought refuge there. Emperor Hirohito visited the park and its new homeless residents soon

King of the Bears

Jonathan Lethem’s new book is billed as ‘his first detective novel since Motherless Brooklyn’, which won America’s national book critics circle award for fiction in 1999. But if you’ve ever read his work, you’ll know not to expect a straightforward crime-solving tale — or anything like it. Throughout his career, Lethem has set out to

The burden of a glorious past

It often proves difficult to talk about modern Greece. Not just because of the relentless stream of news coming at us this past decade in relation to the crisis; but also because Greece, both its ancestry and its more recent passions, can mean quite different things to different people. It’s a history universally revered in