Lead book review

A familiar life (revisited)

A Life Revisited, as the modest, almost nervous, title suggests, mainly concerns Evelyn Waugh’s life with comments on but no analysis of his books. There have been at least three major biographies already, as well as large volumes of diaries, letters and journalism and many slighter volumes. There is more to come. Waugh’s grandson, Alexander,

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Mournful and meticulous

After a curtain-twitching cul-de-sac, a Preston shopping precinct, and the Church of the Latter-Day Saints brought to Lancashire, Jenn Ashworth ups sticks for the seaside in her fourth novel. Set in the determinedly genteel resort of Grange-over-Sands, just across the bay from Morecambe on the Cumbrian coast, Fell is a disturbing, precisely rendered tale of

The wonder of knowledge

‘Transparency,’ remarks Eliade Jenks, narrator of Joanna Kavenna’s fourth novel, A Field Guide to Reality, ‘is an aspiration. But wouldn’t it be strange, if you could see all things clearly?’ It’s an apposite question. For a novel with illumination and the quest for knowledge at its heart, clarity is in beguilingly short supply. Set in

Making waves | 14 July 2016

The tour guides of Ephesus, in Turkey, have a nice party trick to wake up their dozing coach passengers. As the coach drives along, they say, ‘This is the ancient port of Ephesus’, and the passengers look, as I did, at fields and trees and nothing else. They peer for the sea and are told

The art of getting by

Naples, ragamuffin capital of the Italian south, is reckoned to be a hive of pickpocketing and black-market manoeuvrings. (A Neapolitan gambling manual advises: ‘Rule Number 1 — always try to see your opponent’s cards.’) Crime is not the whole picture, of course. To look out across the Bay of Naples remains a visual education in

Daddy dearest

In 2004, after a 25-year estrangement, Susan Faludi’s father reappeared in her life via email. ‘I have had enough of impersonating a macho aggressive man I have never been inside,’ it read, and was signed, ‘Love from your parent, Stefánie.’ The 77-year-old had embarked on a new life as a woman, both a dramatic abruption

Worlds apart

Classics is a boastful subject. Even the name — classics — has an inner boast; as does the classics course at Oxford, Literae Humaniores (‘more humane letters’), and the course’s second half, Greats. Michael Scott, a classics professor at Warwick University and a telegenic media don, tries to put an end to the boastfulness in