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Sam Leith

Exit the hero

It was in The Spectator, in 1954, that the Movement was christened, and its members’ stereotyped image was soon set: white, male (except for Elizabeth Jennings), non-posh poets who rhymed and scanned, hated Abroad, thought T. S. Eliot was arse, Didn’t Come From London, and disconcerted the students at the redbrick universities where they taught

Nor all that glisters

Fool’s Gold, by Gillian Tett Millions of words and scores of official reports on the credit crisis have poured out. There has been no shortage of criticism, especially from political leaders eager to deflect responsibility from themselves. The catastrophe is a man-made disaster, and in years to come historians will ask how it could possibly

Poisoned spring

Say Goodbye to the Cuckoo, by Michael McCarthy Wings and Rings: A History of Bird Migration Studies in Europe, by Richard Vaughan On a May night in 1967, walking home down a Dorset farm track, I counted the song of 13 nightingales. Today in those woods no nightingale is heard. For 40 years I visited

Trouble at the Imperial

It was probably a mistake for Monica Ali to call the hero of her third novel Gabriel Lightfoot. The reader thinks of Hardy’s bucolic swains and the reddle-man’s cart disappearing over Egdon Heath, whereas instead there lumbers into view a 42-year-old hotel chef with an incipient bald spot and inadequate leisure. On the other hand,

Home is where the heart is

Brooklyn, by Colm Tóibín Colm Tóibín’s Brook- lyn is a simple and utterly exquisite novel. The writing is so transparent, so apparently guileless, that I kept wondering what trickery Tóibín had used to keep me so involved, so attached, so unaccountably warmed. The tale’s simplicity is, in a sense, like life’s: an Irish girl called

Life & Letters | 9 May 2009

Amanda Craig recently rebuked her fellow novelists for evading the contemporary scene and setting their novels in the past. We should be more like the Victorians, she said, and have the courage to write about our own times. If the novel is to be relevant to readers, it should address today’s issues. Why, she asked,