Lead book review

What made Lucian Freud so irresistible to women?

Amedeo Modigliani thought Nina Hamnett, muse, painter, memoirist, had ‘the best tits in Europe’. She fell 40 feet from a window and was impaled on the basement railings. Not suicide. She was peeing out of the window, the shared lodging-house lavatory being too distant. On her deathbed, her breathing was like a harmonica. The collector

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It takes a former drug dealer to explain the global narcotics scene

In the early 2000s, Yekaterinburg was in the grip of a major heroin problem. For Yevgeny Roizman, ‘Russia’s vigilante king’, the solution was simple: first, send in goons to beat up the smack dealers; second, round up the city’s addicts, chain them to radiators, and force them to go cold turkey. The policy, unsurprisingly, failed.

Carry on up the Zambezi

I loved this book so much I was appalled. Why, when bookshops are stacked full of memoirs by authors who can’t write, isn’t Alexandra Fuller heaped up in perilous piles so near the till it’s impossible to evade her? This is like one of the most alluring Svetlana Alexievich testimonies, as if it had wandered

The elegance and humour of Neville Cardus

As a fully paid-up, old-school cricket tragic, I astound myself that I have read almost no Neville Cardus. How can that be? He was, in his lifetime, the doyen of cricket writers, mainly because he effectively invented the form. Before he started writing for the Manchester Guardian in 1919, cricket journalists reported the score and

Crazy nannies and missing children: the latest crime fiction reviewed

Madeline Stevens’s debut thriller, Devotion (Faber, £12.99), might more appropriately have been titled ‘Desire’. It’s a riff on that old standby: the crazy nanny story. Except, in this case, both the nanny and the mother of the children are equal contestants in the madness stakes. Ella is poor and adrift in the city. It seems

How Britain conned the US into entering the war

In June 1940, MI6’s new man, Bill Stephenson, ‘a figure of restless energy… wedged into the shell of a more watchful man’, sailed from Liverpool to New York on the MV Britannic. Once separated from its protective convoy, ‘this elegant, ageing liner was on its own’, Henry Hemming writes, noting that the same was true

Was there some Freudian symbolism in Lucian’s botanical paintings?

In early paintings such as ‘Man with a Thistle’ (1946), ‘Still-life with Green Lemon’ (1946) and ‘Self-portrait with Hyacinth Pot’ (1947–8) Lucian Freud portrayed himself alongside striking plant forms, giving equal weight to the vegetable and the human. Similarly, his first wife, Kitty, was depicted in portraits from the same period more or less obscured