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Helping to set Europe ablaze

The Museum of the French Resistance in Brittany lies just outside Saint-Marcel in the Morbihan department, near to Malestroit. It is extensive and consists of a number of buildings situated in a large wooded park. But what makes it special is that it covers the site of the battle of 18 June 1944 which was

Sweet water and bitter

‘Naturalist-in-charge’ was Shel-ton’s title as fisheries expert on board the Tellina, a research vessel. It holds good throughout this excellent memoir, which contains much pertinent information and few idle sentences. By page 30 I’d learned that apple wood makes the best catapult, about the guanine crystals in fish scales, about lampreys, the names of his

A curse — or a blessing in disguise

The death of Francesco Cenci has the ring of a contemporary crime. A wealthy, well-connected man is killed when he steps onto a balcony which inexplicably gives way beneath him. Within days of his burial, local gossip suggests that it was no accident — the hole in the balcony is too small for anyone to

Here be dragons aplenty

Walter Moers has cleverly built a fantastical tale around 21 drawings from the work of the famous 19th-century illustrator, Gustave Doré. The woodcuts reproduced in the book are of gryphons and monsters, naked damsels and dragons and the faces of the moon; Moers has plenty to go on. He spellbinds and spooks it all up

The great English blight

Mark Abley is a Canadian poet of Welsh descent who has recently been travelling the world in search of minority languagues which are bleeding to death or, in the case of Welsh, Faroese and Basque, just about succeeding in staunching their gaping wounds. This is an emotive subject for many writers (perhaps especially for poets),

Scholar and Cold War warrior

When not thinking and writing, Richard Pipes tells us in these memoirs, he is at a loose end. At different times he had ambitions to be an art historian or perhaps a musicologist, he also says, but settled to be a historian. The writing of history depends in the first place on scholarship. Vixi is

Fear of fleeing

Tucked into the pages of The Tyrant’s Novel, Thomas Keneally has slipped a short letter. Giving his reasons for writing the book and stating that he believes it to be the best he has yet produced, the letter is presumably intended for reviewers and booksellers, and it provides information in many ways crucial for readers,

A clear case of ‘misunderestimation’

American Dynastyby Kevin PhillipsPenguin/Allen Lane, £18.99, pp. 397, ISBN 071399746X The prosperous Floridan seaside resort of Sarasota should be natural Bush country. Home to golf courses, marinas and retirement condos, the town’s Republican Congress- woman Katherine Harris shot to fame in the 2000 presidential election as the official appointed by Governor Jeb Bush to make

Closely related deaths

Good Morning, Midnight is an excellent novel by that mistress of introspective sensitivity, Jean Rhys. Reginald Hill hijacks the title for his far less morbid new detective novel starring that trinity of beings, Detective Superintendent Andy Dalziel, Detective Inspector Peter Pascoe and Sergeant Wield. Good Morning, Midnight is, however, definitely Pascoe’s case. Dalziel plays an

Flattening the literary landscape

Despite the title, this is not one of those gloom-mongering surveys of the state of culture that so regularly (usually at the end of a decade) predict the Death of the Novel, the End of History, the Death of the Individual, and the like. Indeed, on closer inspection, ‘The Last of England’ turns out to