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Freedom and houghmagandie

The Bard: Robert Burns, A Biography, by Robert Crawford Robert Burns: A Biography, by Patrick Scott Hogg How to account for the phenomenon of Robert Burns? Not the man or his poetry, but the national icon, a Caledonian amalgam of Alexander Pushkin and Bob Marley? The process of idolisation began with the instant acclaim that

A choice of crime novels | 21 January 2009

Ruth Rendell’s Kingsmarkham series is set against the changing backdrop of a provincial town over more than 40 years. But her London-based books, though they lack recurring characters and locations, almost amount to a series in their own right. She has made the city her own, and writes with both knowledge and compassion about its

Pawns in the royal game

The Sisters Who Would Be Queen, by Leanda de Lisle Only recently a portrait minature by Lavina Teerlinc was identified as being of Lady Jane Grey. Her diminutive size, coiffed red hair and crimson lips had suggested that it might be her — except that the eyes are blue, while Jane’s were known to be

Troubled waters

Empires of the Indus, by Alice Albinia When Alice Albinia set off for the source of the Indus she was not embarking on a quest for the unknown: she knew where the river rises. She wanted to start her journey at its mouth, the delta on the Arabian Sea, to travel upstream to Tibet and

The life of the heart

Love’s Civil War: Elizabeth Bowen and Charles Ritchie, Letters and Diaries from the Love Affair of a Lifetime edited by Victoria Glendinning, with Judith Roberts It is probable that the Anglo-Irish writer Elizabeth Bowen (1899-1973) was a virgin ten years after her marriage to Alan Cameron, the retired Secretary to the Central Council of School

No longer at home

The Writer as Migrant, by Ha Jin Three quest-ions, labelled as ‘Aristot- elian’ by the author, begin the Rice University Campbell Lectures delivered by Ha Jin in 2007: to whom, as whom, and in whose interest does a writer write? To which the reader might respond: can any writer truthfully answer any of these questions?