Lead book review

Misadventures in Libya

If photographs of ‘the deal in the desert’ made you queasy — you remember, Tony Blair and Muammar Gaddafi shaking hands for the cameras in 2004 — imagine how you would have felt if you were in exile in London and your father under torture in Gaddafi’s cells at the time. Now Blair is not

More from Books

The child is father of the man

Are writers born or made? The answer, by the end of Love from Boy — a selection of Roald Dahl’s letters to his mother drawn from the 40 years of correspondence they kept up, lovingly edited and deftly commented upon by his biographer Donald Sturrock — is surely that they are both. Even as a

The great depression

If it was not yet ‘The Age of Anxiety’ in 1947, when Auden published his long poem of the same name, now it most certainly is, given the manifold global uncertainties that keep any sane person awake with worry. Nearly 20 per cent of adult Americans have been diagnosed with a general anxiety disorder, while

The artist as lover

Roland Penrose (1900–84) was a Surrealist painter and object-maker, a collector and art world grandee, a writer and organiser of exhibitions, co-founder of the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) and biographer of Picasso. He amply illustrates Goethe’s dictum that we are rich at the price of our contradictions. Born a wealthy Quaker, Penrose rebelled and

The mystery of the waggle-dance

The Dancing Bees is a romantic title, evoking fantasy and fairy tale rather than scientific rigour, but actually this book is a story of fearsome determination. It is a biography of Karl von Frisch, who discovered the language of the honeybee, but Tania Munz’s account is much more besides, as it reveals the scientist’s struggle

Twists, turns and good red herrings

Jessie Burton’s first novel, The Miniaturist, set in 17th-century Amsterdam, read like a lantern-slide show. Her churches were by Pieter Saenredam, her town-houses those of Vermeer and Gerard ter Borch. Her kitchens and corridors and eaves-dropping maids came from Nicolaes Maes. She proved herself a painterly writer with an eye for the telling detail. The

The blank on the map

‘Is Geoff Dyer someone on your radar?’ inquired the courtly literary editor, inviting me to review this book. What a question! Envy is the writer’s sin, as everyone knows, and to a nonagenarian writer of my kind the very conception of Geoff Dyer, aged 57 and perhaps the most brilliantly original practitioner of his generation,

A merry guide

If you have legs, or a bicycle, or indeed both, you are going to love this book. Chaps, no matter how old or how fat or otherwise incapacitated you are, if you haven’t already received it for Father’s Day the chances are it’s coming your way this Christmas. Ladies: if you are a fell-runner, a