More from Books

Sam Leith

Goats and donkeys

The Goat, they called him; and goatish he certainly was. He was stubborn, self-willed, exceptionally adept at climbing upward over rocky ground — and then there was the other thing, the thing that gives rise to this book. If there was a single force in his life to rival David Lloyd George’s ambition it was

The man who could not tell the truth

This has to be one of the most courageous books ever written. Literary biography is a foolhardy venture anyway, a writer’s life being usually his own raw material, so he has usually written his own version, or versions, of this, however fragmentary, and, what is much worse, written it well, otherwise there would be no

Less mighty than the sword

Caroline Moorehead on Daoud Hari’s memoir of Darfur When Daoud Hari was a boy, the villages of northern Darfur were peaceful places. He had a camel called Kelgi, to which he was much attached, and a vast clan of Zaghawa traditional tribal herdsmen as cousins. Sent away to school in El Fasher, he developed a taste

A long and happy life

Jason Goowin reviews the memoirs of John Julius Norwich In 1957 John Julius Cooper (later Norwich) was keeping open house in Beirut, ‘the Clapham Junction of the world’s air routes’.Guests were given dinner on the terrace, where the Coopers liked to watch their faces ‘as, promptly at ten minutes past nine, an immense, luminous grapefruit appeared from

God bless America

The Most Noble Adventure contains a striking pair of photographs of the business district in Hamburg. The first, taken in 1945, shows shattered buildings, clouds of smoke and a virtually empty street. Five years later, the same scene is transformed. The damage has largely been repaired and the sidewalks are filled with well-dressed pedestrians. Was

The travels of an idealist

Simon Baker reviews Andreï Makine’s latest novel In Andreï Makine’s previous novel, The Woman Who Waited (2006), which is set in 1970s USSR, the unnamed narrator sees through his peers’ weak ideologies; he knows that their anti- establishment stance is merely a neat justification for a life of indolence. In Human Love, Elias Almeida, a communist revolutionary,

A gift for friendship

This magnificent edition of Benjamin Britten’s letters reaches its fourth volume under the auspices of a new publisher, the Boydell Press (despite subsidy, Faber simply couldn’t make it pay), and the first thing to say is that the standards of production, design and copy-editing have not suffered (misspellings of names such as John Lanigan, Roderic

Love lies bleeding | 14 June 2008

Andrew Taylor reviews the fourth novel in Susan Hill’s crime series The Vows of Silence is the fourth novel in Susan Hill’s crime series. Like its predecessors, it is concerned with murder and its investigation in and around a cathedral city known as Lafferton, and with the lives of those concerned. The central character of the

Inspirational individuals

My 85-year-old neighbour bows to passing magpies, casts spells, and gleefully claims to be ‘a mad old bat’. Eccentric you might say. But she also speaks Mandarin Chinese and sports on her desk a photograph of herself in 1945 carrying a rifle on a hillside above Kunming in southern China where she helped SOE run

Can a novelist write too well?

At least a couple of times, probably more often, Anthony Burgess declared that Evelyn Waugh wrote ‘too well for a novelist’. ‘Sour grapes’ you may say, remembering that in his own novels Burgess often wrote in clumsy and slapdash style, and that he was perhaps himself a better reviewer than novelist. But it wasn’t just