Lead book review

Throned on her hundred isles

Approximately 500 new books on Venice are published every year and this is not the first literary anthology devoted to the city. But Marie-Jose Gransard lectures in Venice about Venice to Venetians, and conducts her students on guided tours of the city. Her selection draws on sources going back over 800 years and across six

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Nothing quite adds up

Whimsy, satire and deadpan humour: welcome to the world of Andrey Kurkov. If you know Kurkov’s work, The Bickford Fuse will be no surprise and need no introduction. It’s not Death and the Penguin or A Matter of Death and Life (read them first), but it’s certainly Kurkov in welcome and familiar mode. For newcomers

Everyone’s favourite dinosaur

Tyrannosaurus rex is the greatest celebrity of all time. The 68–66 million-year-old carnivore is far older than any actor or musician, including Keith Richards, and yet is still must-have talent for Hollywood blockbusters, comics, museum displays and more. But all that fame comes at a cost. There seems to be as much mythology as science

The bane of Albania

In his final public appearance, the Albanian dictator Enver Hoxha addressed a Tirana crowd to commemorate the capital’s liberation from German invaders on the 28 November 1944. The Hoxha who had entered the city as a communist partisan was now a weak old man. He was often confined to a wheelchair, had to be hoisted

Goodbye to all that | 12 May 2016

Glimpsing the title of Lynsey Hanley’s absorbing new book as it fell out of the jiffy bag, I found myself thinking of my grandmother, Mrs Lilian Taylor. This lady, who died in 1957, spent the first part of her married life inhabiting a couple of furnished rooms on the western side of Norwich and the

Rewriting holy writ

Jesuits, the leading apologists for Rome and Catholic revival in Elizabethan England, cast a long shadow over the paranoid post-Armada years. For one thing, they set much store by Romish ‘persuasion’ (sophistical reasoning) and were often superb linguists. Among the languages codified by Jesuits were Guaraní in Paraguay and Sri Lankan Tamil. Jesuit attempts to

One day, two lonely people

Twenty-four long hours, two lonely people, one city in decline. This is the premise of A.L. Kennedy’s new novel Serious Sweet, a work full of anger at what has happened to London since the Thatcher revolution and concern for the city’s isolated, impotent inhabitants. Kennedy’s representative Londoners are Jon, a divorced and fusty civil servant,

The grit in the oyster

Richard Dorment doesn’t do whimsy. Or Stanley Spencer. He’s a fan of Cy Twombly and Brice Marden, Gilbert and George and Mark Wallinger, Rachel Whiteread and Susan Hiller. He loves writing about contemporary art. And he worked as art critic of the Daily Telegraph for 25 years. Like the grit in the oyster he irritated

The dog it was that died

Appropriately for the dog days of British politics, there’s plenty of canine activity in this neatly groomed account of the bizarre circumstances behind the murder plot which cost the Liberal party leader Jeremy Thorpe his job and his debonair reputation in the 1970s. First yelps from the kennel came from the Honourable Brecht Van de