Lead book review

Margaret Thatcher’s most surprising virtue: imagination

In almost every one of the many biographies of Margaret Thatcher that now exist, the story is told of her being congratulated for her good luck in winning a prize when she was nine — either for reciting poetry or for playing the piano. She indignantly replied, ‘I wasn’t lucky. I deserved it.’ Now, in

More from Books

Is City on Fire just a box set masquerading as a novel?

Ninety pages into the juggernaut that is City on Fire, I begin to think that this is really a box set masquerading as a novel. As such it will be great. A New York setting, a cast that’s a Noah’s Ark migrant mix (from Afro to Vietnamese), a gripping crime investigation and a historical and

Mary Beard minds her S, P, Q and R

Having rattled and routed Mark Antony and his bewitching Egyptian at the battle of Actium in 31 BC, Octavian was on his way home to Rome when he was confronted by some punter. The man produced a talking raven, which obligingly squawked, ‘Greetings, Caesar, our victorious commander!’ Octavian was delighted at this evidence of loyalty,

The polyphonous Babel of global music

‘Following custom, when the Siamese conquered the Khmer they carried off much of the population, including most of their musicians, to be resettled in what is now Thailand.’ The history of music isn’t a story of chords and scores, instruments or their players. Music’s story is one of wars, invasions and revolutions, religion, monarchy and

Curtain call for Ruth Rendell

Ruth Rendell’s final novel, Dark Corners, is about how psychological necessity can drive perfectly ordinary people either to terrible deeds or to unwitting acts of great courage — and extraordinary things can happen quite by chance to anyone. Carl, the central character, is a young man pleased with his life. He has written a novel

Green is the colour of happiness

According to this wonderfully thought-provoking book, human attachment to plants was much more evident in the 19th century than it is now. In those days people showed genuine wonder at their ‘strange existences and unquantifiable powers’, especially the British, who fashioned the most ambitious glass building of the age —the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park