Lead book review

Perilous Question, by Antonia Fraser— review

There are times when a major drama in the House of Commons really does change the course of British history. The period 1974–79, dramatised in the play This House, was one such. The crisis over the Great Reform Bill was another. Not so long ago, every schoolboy knew that the 1832 Reform Act gave the

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Peter Oborne is almost right about Iran’s non-existent nukes

Whether the United States is a force for global peace is not really up for debate in the self-described ‘indispensable nation’, though the question sharply divides opinion almost everywhere else. By focusing on America’s fixation with Iran, this short and angry book argues against. The book’s polemic is built on good foundations: we are often

Holloway, by Robert Macfarlane – review

This is a very short book recording two visits to the hills around Chideock in Dorset.In the first Robert Macfarlane and the late Roger Deakin, author of Waterlog, go searching for the ‘holloway’ in which Geoffrey Household’s hero holes up in Rogue Male. A holloway (not to be found in the OED) is, in Macfarlane’s

The Tradescants’ Orchard, by Barry Juniper – review

Elias Ashmole, fortune-hunter, scholar and collector, bequeathed his coins, curiosities and books in 1692 to form the nucleus of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. The books were later taken over by the Bodleian Library. One of them is called The Tradescants’ Orchard, from a tenuous association with John Tradescant I, Keeper of Gardens, Vines and

And the Mountain Echoed, by Khaled Hosseini – review

The American comedian Stephen Colbert once joked that when he publicly criticised the novels of Khaled Hosseini, his front garden was invaded by angry members of women’s books groups. They were carrying flaming torches in one hand and bottles of white wine in the other. It’s a joke that neatly sums up two significant facts

The Hermit in the Garden, by Gordon Campbell – review

In his 1780 essay On Modern Gardening Horace Walpole declared that of the many ornamental features then fashionable, the one ‘whose merit soonest fades’ was the hermitage. Inspired by the ancient cells of genuine religious anchorites, but largely decorative, garden hermitages had flourished in Britain during the 18th century. While some were appropriately primitive in