25/06/2022
25 Jun 2022

Putin’s billions

25 Jun 2022

Putin’s billions

Books

More from Books
Margie Orford
Ethel, Ella and all that jazz: the soundtrack of a Chicago childhood

Margo Jefferson’s Constructing a Nervous System compresses memoir and cultural criticism into one slim, explosive volume, and in doing so the Pulitzer Prize-winning author makes both forms new. Hers is a wry, intimate portrayal of a passionate and intellectual woman coming to maturity: ‘Older women’s tales... are hard to pull off,’ she writes: ‘They risk being arch.’ But Jefferson is never arch. Her eye is too keen and her aim too true.

Ethel, Ella and all that jazz: the soundtrack of a Chicago childhood
Chris Mullin
We let Hong Kong down: Chris Patten on the end of colonial rule

After 13 years in parliament, rising star Chris Patten had the bad luck to be one of the few Tory MPs to lose his seat in 1992. Had he been re-elected he would probably have become chancellor of the exchequer. Instead, he found himself in the wilderness. But not for long. Within months he had been appointed governor of Hong Kong, tasked with the tricky business of presiding over the transfer of the territory to communist China.

We let Hong Kong down: Chris Patten on the end of colonial rule
Peter Parker
‘That little venal borough’: a poet’s jaundiced view of Aldeburgh

‘To talk about Crabbe is to talk about England,’ E.M. Forster declared in a radio broadcast in May 1941, but few people today talk about this Suffolk-born poet or indeed read him. This makes Frances Gibb’s slender but thorough account of George Crabbe’s life and work all the more welcome. In his time he was considered a leading, though controversial, figure, who wrote with stark realism about the spiritually and morally impoverished lives of East Anglian villagers and townspeople, in particular the inhabitants of the ‘little venal borough’ of Aldeburgh, where he was born in 1754 and spent an unhappy youth.

‘That little venal borough’: a poet’s jaundiced view of Aldeburgh
Alan Judd
People of little interest: MI5’s view of left-wing intellectuals

If MI5 had a Cold War file on you – paper in those happy days – it didn’t mean they thought you were a spy. Nor even that you were especially interesting. Files were a means of storing and retrieving information. They could be general subject files or personal files (PFs) relating to individuals. Some PF holders were secretly investigated, but many were merely monitored – i.e. information about them was collated until it was clear there was no need for further investigation.

People of little interest: MI5’s view of left-wing intellectuals
Philip Mansel
The emperor as ruler of heaven and Earth

Geography, climate, economics and nationalism are often seen as decisive forces in history. In this dynamic, original and convincing book Dominic Lieven considers emperors and their dynasties as motors of events. Defying constrictions of time and space, ranging from Sargon of Akkad, the ruler of what is now northern Iraq (r. 2334-2279 BC), to the Emperor Hirohito of Japan (r. 1926-89), he believes that ‘for millennia, hereditary sacred monarchy had been the most desirable and successful form of polity on Earth’.

The emperor as ruler of heaven and Earth
Leaf Arbuthnot
An immorality tale: Lapvona, by Ottessa Moshfegh, reviewed

Has there been a better novel this century than Ottessa Moshfegh’s My Year of Rest and Relaxation? There might not have been. The book was a hit when it came out in 2018 and had a second wind during the pandemic, when readers found themselves ‘resonating’ with its cabin-fever plot. Not that there was much plot: the novel follows a beautiful young woman marooned in her New York apartment, where she mainly watches TV and pops pills like they’re Pringles.

An immorality tale: Lapvona, by Ottessa Moshfegh, reviewed
Caroline Moorehead
The unimaginable horrors confronting the Allies in 1945

No one had prepared the Allied soldiers, as they began their invasion of the Reich early in 1945, for what they would find. The discovery by the Soviets of the extermination camp of Majdanek in July 1944, and Auschwitz in January 1945, had not really registered, not least because they had been partly emptied and demolished by the retreating Germans. In any case, no one – not the International Committee of the Red Cross, nor the Vatican, nor the British and American governments – had been able, or wanted, to believe what they had been told.

The unimaginable horrors confronting the Allies in 1945
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