Lead book review

Going for a Song, by Bevis Hillier – extract

  On the Bust of Helen by Canova In this beloved marble view, Above the works and thought of man What nature could and would not, do, And beauty and Canova can! Beyond imagination’s power Beyond the Bard’s defeated art, With immortality her dower Behold the Helen of the heart! — George Gordon, Lord Byron

Keep the Man Booker Prize British

I am nothing if not patriotic. Like most Americans, I am convinced that mine is the freest, most beautiful country on earth. But I cannot pretend to be happy that two of us have been shortlisted for the Booker Prize. When it was announced earlier this year that novels written by Americans — in fact,

More from Books

Mynheer Wouwermans

From the long ride, fresh trees licked by enough blue light to cross-patch antique trousers, we come at last past casks head-dressed with tulips to this puzzling concourse where white signs agree to open a house decked by strangers with an attentive love. ‘Mynheer, do you remember? Yes, twenty-five years.’ Our polls are whiter than

Andrew Marr thinks he’s a novelist. I don’t

It’s September 2017, and our still apparently United Kingdom is in the throes of a referendum campaign. The wise, charming, beloved Prime Minister, successor to ‘the shortlived Johnson administration’, wants to keep us in the EU. Olivia Kite, a spike-heeled mixture of Elizabeth I (Horrible Histories version) and Rebekah Brooks, heads the ‘No to Europe’

Cecil Beaton, the bitch

Beaton was the great inventor. Apart from inventing not only himself but his look, his voice, his persona and a glamorous family, he invented the a in photography, the Edwardian period for the stage and films, the most outré of costumes, the elaborate for his rooms, a cartoon-like simplicity for his drawings, and the dream

And one more for the road – excerpts from Roddy Doyle’s latest

9-12-12 — See the spacer died. —Wha’ spacer? —The Sky at Night fella. —Bobby Moore. —Patrick Moore. —That’s him, yeah. Did he die? —Yeah. —That’s a bit sad. He was good, wasn’t he? —Brilliant. Very English as well. —How d’yeh mean? —Well, like — he’d look into his telescope an’ his eyebrows would go mad

Beer and skittles and Lucian Freud and Quentin Crisp – a Hampstead misery memoir

The rise of the ‘misery memoir’ describing abusive childhoods, followed by the I-was-a-teenage-druggie-alkie-gangbanger-tick-as-appropriate memoir, pushed into the shadows an older tradition, the memoir of childhood pleasure, of charm and humour. Some of the greats — Gwen Raverat’s Period Piece, Diana Holman-Hunt’s My Grandmothers and I — continue to be enjoyed; others every bit as good

Literature’s least attractive power couple

This book charts the rise and fall of one of the strangest power couples of modern times. The senior partner was initially Pam Johnson, a rising literary star, 28 years old and happily married with five novels under her belt and a fiction column on the Liverpool Post, when she singled out a novel by

A salute to Georges Simenon

One hundred years ago an 11-year-old boy called Georges Simenon was getting accustomed to the presence of the German army in Liège. Together with his mother and his younger brother he had been forced to hide in the cellar of their terraced house on the island of Outremeuse to avoid the firing squads. The Belgian

This new translation of Crime and Punishment is a masterpiece

Subscribers to this periodical, while Mark Amory has been literary editor, must often have felt they were enjoying an incomparable feast. Even The Spectator at its best, however, could not quite rival the periodical the Russian Herald (Russkii Vestnik) under the editorship of M.N. Katkov. This phenomenal editor, in the year 1866, secured serial publication