More from Books

Values and fluctuations

Every now and then there are surveys in which groups or individuals are asked to name books which have changed their lives. In my life, the publication of John Gross’s The Rise and Fall of the Man of Letters, published by Weidenfeld and Nicolson when I was a bookish teenager, undoubtedly determined for me the

The art and craft of government

Any book about the exercise of power that carries a ringing endorsement by Peter Hen- nessy on its dust-cover promises well. Perhaps, therefore, it is the fault of this reviewer that he felt that Professor Mulgan had generated rather less excitement than Professor Hennessy had promised. Hennessy’s own books reflect his own personality: they fizz,

Nul points for conduct

Great writers are never that great close up. Ralph Pite’s revealing biography of Thomas Hardy focuses on the emotional character of the poet and novelist. He comes across as difficult, snobbish, tight-fisted, self-centred, hypocritical, and, worst of all, ungrateful to those who helped him in the early stages of his career. The great champion of

A long losing run

This is indeed a story of war, passion and loss. But those looking for a bittersweet tale of romantic Polish aristocrats stoically facing their doom at the hands of the Nazis and Soviets will get a great deal more than they bargained for. This is Gone with the Wind scripted for the Addams family. The

Summer reads

Summer reads: doesn’t the very phrase conjure up unfortunate images of lobster sunburn? Summer reads: doesn’t the very phrase conjure up unfortunate images of lobster sunburn? But what to do, when a long summer stretches ahead and there are still hours in the day to kill after you’ve finished watching the footie, or the live

Coming out of the cold

At the beginning of Andreï Makine’s new novel we meet a young narrator in possession of some fairly bleak certainties. On the subject of love, he tells us that, once affection has been won, the routine of a relationship, or of indifference, can take over. The other one’s mystery has been tamed. Their body reduced

Nailing the zeitgeist

When Microserfs was published in 1995, it sealed Douglas Coupland’s reputation as a nonpareil, the foremost recorder of American popular culture and the digital revolution. Tracing the lives of a group of computer coders who abandon Bill Gates’ campus-like corporation to start up their own company, the novel became famous as the definitive account of

A puzzle still unsolved

Sara Moore would explain a rise to power as astonishing as any in history. A down-and-out house-painter and plebeian agitator becomes master at 43 of a country whose most influential classes expected its rulers to be of some social standing, and not to look absurd. The Marx, Lenin and Stalin, all in one, of his

Keeping the balance

In a volume of his posthumously published notebooks (Garder Tout en Composant Tout), Henry de Montherlant remarks: ‘Je ne sais pourquoi nous faisons des descriptions, puisque le lecteur ne les lit jamais.’ Well said, but not quite true; there are readers who dote on long descriptive passages. Alain de Botton for instance wrote recently that