Lead book review

Music & Monarchy, by David Starkey – review

British royalty, considered from a purely mechanistic angle, cannot function adequately without music. Deprived of marching bands, trumpeters and choristers or even of those ever so well-mannered regimental ensembles which dispense selections from favourite musicals at an investiture or a garden party, the royal performance would lose much of its authenticity. Playing the king in

More from Books

Jane Gardam on Barbara Comyns – essay

The Vet’s Daughter is Barbara Comyns’s fourth and most startling novel. Written in 1959 when she was 50 it is the first in which she shows mastery of the structures of a fast-moving narrative and a consistent backdrop to the ecstasies and agonies of the human condition. It was received with excitement, widely reviewed, praised

Foreign Policy Begins at Home, by Richard N. Haass – review

A year or so after the ‘liberation’ of Iraq, an unnamed senior Bush administration official (later revealed to be Karl Rove) boasted: ‘We are an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality.’ Yet a decade later, America’s power and influence has diminished considerably and the American people are suffering from foreign

Adhocism, by Charles Jencks – review

Here, for time travellers, is the whack-job spirit of ’68 in distillate form, paperbound and reissued in facsimile (with some exculpatory, older and wiser material fore and aft). Adhocism (re)captures with magical realism the boldness and silliness of its day.  This was the day when ‘new media’ meant colour television. Younger readers may need more

Horace and Me, by Harry Eyres – review

After Zorba the Greek, here comes Horace the Roman. The peasant Zorba, you’ll remember from the film, releases uptight, genteel Alan Bates from his cage of repressed Englishness. Now it’s Horace, the Augustan lyric poet, releasing another repressed Englishman: Harry Eyres, Old Etonian scholar, Cambridge graduate, poet and author of the ‘Slow Lane’ column in

Dark Actors, by Robert Lewis – review

No book about Dr David Kelly could start anywhere other than at the end. Kelly is found, dead, in a wood near his Oxfordshire home. A public inquiry, headed by Lord Hutton, concludes that Britain’s leading germ warfare expert has committed suicide. Those who question the procedure or the verdict are scorned as conspiracy theorists.

Against Their Will, by Allen M. Hornblum – review

After the Morecambe Bay Hospital scandal a new era opens of compassion, -whistle-blowing, naming names and possible prosecutions. But what about 70-odd years of harming children in ‘care’ homes, and prisoners, with toxin injections, -radioactive blasts, electro-shocks to the brain and frontal lobotomies — all done in the interests of medical advance by leading American

Laidlaw by William McIlvanney – review

Laidlaw was first published in 1977, 36 years back from now, 38 on from The Big Sleep. Like Chandler’s classic it has survived the passage of time. William McIlvanney did for Glasgow what Chandler had done for Los Angeles, giving the city its fictional identity. Hemingway used to say that all American literature came out