Lead book review

What’s really behind the Tories’ present woes?

The problem is, we really need a Tory party. Whether we have one at the moment is another question. Political debate requires a significant and trustworthy proponent of personal freedom, of the limits of government, of personal responsibility, of strict limitations of government expenditure, of independent enterprise which may succeed through a lack of intrusive

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How Margaret Thatcher could have saved London’s skyline

Looking around London on the eve of the millennium, it would have been difficult to think that the UK government had an adviser on architectural design. The 1990s had been a dismal decade. Yet such a body existed in the quaintly named Royal Fine Art Commission, refounded in 1924. The original Commission had been created

Was the flapper style of the 1920s so liberating?

I had held Beauty’s sceptre, and had seen men slaves beneath it. I knew the isolation, the penalty of this greatness. Yet I owned it was an empire for which it might be well worth paying. —Olivia Shakespear, Beauty’s Hour (1896) All the Rage is a perfect title for a book about terrible beauty. The

A walled garden in Suffolk yields up its secrets

In the hot summer of 2020, during the Covid pandemic, Olivia Laing and her husband Ian moved from Cambridge to a beautiful Georgian house in a Suffolk village and began work on restoring the neglected, extensive walled garden behind it. She was vaguely aware that the garden had been owned and loved by the well-known

Abba’s genius was never to write a happy love song

Memories. Good days. Bad days. In 1992, U2 mounted their Zoo TV tour. U2 being U2, the gigs were over-earnest affairs, their showbiz razzmatazz never emulsifying with their agitprop posturing. But disbelief was colloidally suspended the night the show hit Stockholm – and U2 were joined on stage by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulväeus for

A haunting mystery: Enlightenment, by Sarah Perry, reviewed

As ghosts go, Maria Vaduva, who haunts Enlightenment, is not a patch on the wild, tormented figure who stalks the pages of Sarah Perry’s previous novel, Melmoth. Where Melmoth, in rage and despair, haunts everyone complicit in history’s horrors, Maria is crossly plaintive. The disappearance of this unrecognised 19th-century Romanian astronomer from Lowlands House, a