More from Books

Bookends: Saving JFK

Stephen King’s latest novel is a time-travel fantasy about the assassination of John F. Kennedy. At almost 750 pages, 11.22.63 is drawn-out even by blockbuster standards. Critics have bemoaned its surfeit of period detail (bobby socks, Hula Hoops, big-finned cars). I rather enjoyed it. King, now an august-looking 64, is a writer of towering cleverness,

Nothing on paper

On the subject of e-readers, I suspect the world population divides neatly into two halves. On one side of the chasm, hell will freeze over and Accrington Stanley will win the FA Cup before anyone will even touch one. And on the other, that looks like fun, can I have one for Christmas? I was

A gimlet eye

We should be grateful to families which encourage the culture of writing letters, and equally vital, the keeping of them. Leopold Mozart, for instance, taught his son not only music but correspondence, and as a result we have 1,500 pages of letters which tell us everything we know of interest about the genius. His younger

Settling old scores | 10 December 2011

As a boy, Brian Sewell was unimpressed by opera but enraptured by pantomime which, he reveals in Outsider, sowed in him ‘an undying ambition, never fulfilled, to play the Widow Twanky in Aladdin’. Panto’s loss has been art criticism’s gain for, his tremendous erudition and exquisite prose aside, Sewell is surely the funniest art critic

The greatest show on earth | 10 December 2011

Jessica Douglas-Home’s aptly titled book is based on the diaries of her grandmother Lilah Wingfield, who attended the Delhi Durbar in 1911 and then spent some weeks touring India. It is a glimpse of Empire from a privileged position since Lilah was the daughter of a viscount and the grand-daughter of an earl, brought up

Don’t mention the war

It wasn’t easy being the daughter of the artist Avigdor Arikha. In this memoir, Alba Arikha mixes teenage fury with glimpses of her godfather Samuel Beckett and a fragmented account of her father’s experiences of the Holocaust. Avigdor Arikha and his wife, the poet Anne Atik, surrounded themselves with the intelligentsia of Paris and drove

Voyages of discovery

Roger Louis is an American professor from the University of Texas at Austin who knows more about the history of the British Empire than any other two academics put together. When the Oxford University Press embarked on its mammoth history of the Empire the general editor they chose —to the chagrin of certain professors from

A beautiful bloody world

The half-millennium or so that followed the division of the Carolingian empire in 843 AD was a time of profound social and political change in Europe. Kingdoms were established, new forms of law and theories of power were developed and military technology and tactics were revolutionised. Relations between church and state were transformed. The emerging

Lifelong death wish

In February 2009, in a review in these pages of Stefan Zweig’s unfinished novel, The Post Office Girl, I wrote: ‘Here surely is what Joseph Conrad meant when he wrote that above all he wanted his readers “to see.’’  In The Post Office Girl Zweig explores the details of everyday life in language that pierces

Wizard of the Baroque

Not content with being the greatest sculptor of his age and one of its most gifted architects, Gian Lorenzo Bernini had some talent as a painter and draftsman. Surviving self-portraits reveal him as the possessor of a positively overstated physique du role. In its most youthful incarnation the face has an air of presumption and