More from Books

A chilly professional

The Forgotten Prime Minister: The 14th Earl of Derby, by Angus Hawkins Who was the 14th Earl of Derby? He was three times Conservative prime minister, but few people have heard of him today. He became leader of the Tory rump after Peel smashed the Conservative party in 1846, and he remained leader until ill

Bright sparks of the Dark Ages

Travelling Heroes: Greeks and Their Myths in the Epic Age of Homer, by Robin Lane Fox In Book II of the Iliad, Homer describes for the first time a Greek advance across the plain of Troy. Various similes are deployed to convey its impact, most of them precise and vivid, as Homer’s similes invariably are.

The iceman cometh

True North: Travels in Arctic Europe, by Gavin Francis This is an old-fashioned travel book of the linear variety. Roaming the northern fringes of Europe with a tent and a nose for a story, Scottish doctor Gavin Francis looks beyond the icebergs and the stunted willow seeking ‘a back country of the imagination where myth

A far cry from Paradise

This strange novel is described as a ghost story, although it reads like a nervous breakdown in which both writer and reader are embedded. So constricted is the narrative that the central figure, Jim Smith, delivers no opinion of his own, although his past life appears to have been full of incident: extensive travel, a

Rekindling life in a dead frame

Why re-write Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus as The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein? The rewriting of well-known novels generally depends upon two techniques. The first involves recasting the narrator: telling the tale from a different point of view, usually that of the historical underdog (women, servants, woodworm, etc). The second is to update the novel,

The châtelaine and the wanderer

Towards the end of this hugely enjoyable volume of letters, selected and edited by the skilful Charlotte Mosley from half a century of correspondence (1954-2007), Deborah Devonshire, by now in her mid-eighties, writes a postcard from Chatsworth to her friend, Patrick Leigh Fermor, aged 90, who lives in Greece. ‘Did you know’, she asks ‘That

Brave new writing

Fifty years ago, Alan Sillitoe’s first novel, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, changed the history of English fiction. Richard Bradford explains how. Alan Sillitoe is 80 this year and his debut novel Saturday Night and Sunday Morning was published in October 1958, almost exactly half a century ago. The novel evolved from a set of

Life and Letters | 6 September 2008

‘The result is a minor masterpiece, so good that one can even forgive the author’s affected forays into demotic English (‘don’t’ and ‘wouldn’t’ for ‘did not’ and ‘would not’, etc.).’ Setting aside the writer’s mistake — ‘don’t’ being the contraction of “do not” rather than ‘did not’ — this sentence brought me up sharp ,