More from Books

Sam Leith

Paths of enlightenment

In which Robert Macfarlane goes for a walk, again. But, as admirers of his previous works will know, Robert Macfarlane never just goes for a walk. This book’s four parts, each divided into three or four sub-sections, tell the stories of 16 expeditions: their declared intention to investigate ‘walking as a reconnoitre inwards’. His theme

In a Greene shade | 26 May 2012

One of the unanticipated benefits of British rule in India is the body of distinguished writing in the English language coming from the Indian diaspora — Naipaul, Seth, Rushdie, Mistry, Mishra and Pico Iyer. Iyer, however, is atypical in that he was born in Oxford, lived in California, and was educated at Eton and Oxford.

Doctor in distress

It is winter 1936. Every weekday morning a group of young people travel by train from Ferrara, their home city, to Bologna where they are studying at the university. Theirs is a six-carriage stopping train, often infuriatingly late because of delays on the line, thus contradicting the famous Fascist boast about improvement of Italian railways.

An enigma wrapped in a conundrum

What to make of Banksy? Artist or vandal? Tate Modern holds no Banksys and, other than a redundant phone box that he folded in half and pretended to have reconfigured with a pickaxe, Banksy has never destroyed anything. So I ask my 15-year-old son what he knows of him: ‘He’s the guy who did the

Recent crime novels | 26 May 2012

William Brodrick’s crime novels have the great (and unusual) merit of being unlike anyone else’s, not least because his series hero, Brother Anselm, is a Gray’s Inn barrister turned Suffolk monk. The plot of The Day of the Lie (Little, Brown, £12.99), Anselm’s fourth case,  is triggered by the discovery of files relating to Poland’s

Enter a Wodehousian world

On 26 February 1969, Roger Mortimer wrote to his son, Charlie: ‘Your mother has had flu. Her little plan to give up spirits for Lent lasted three and a half days. Pongo has chewed up a rug and had very bad diarrhoea in the kitchen. Six Indians were killed in a car crash in Newbury.’

Straying from the Way

No sensible writer wastes good material. A couple of years ago Tim Parks published a memoir, Teach Us to Sit Still, a tale of chronic, debilitating back pain that appeared to have no physical cause. He tried everything, short of major surgery, and even toyed with that for a while. Finally, in desperation, this lifelong

Back to the Dreyfus Affair

Not bad, this life. Now 95, Bernard Lewis, is recognised everywhere as a leading historian of the Middle East.He is the author of 32 books, translated into 29 languages, able in 15 languages, consulted by popes, kings, presidents and sheiks, on good or argumentative terms with many Western and Middle Eastern scholars and politicians, husband

Some legends flourish …

Confronted by the dead Athenian heroes of the Peloponnesian War, Pericles gave voice in his funeral oration to an idea that explains better than any other why we are so obsessed by our military past. The freedom intrinsic to democracy, he said, made the unconstrained decision of its citizens to risk their lives in war

… while others fade

For Watergate junkies, another raking of the old coals is irresistible. For those underage younger persons who never understood what all the fuss was about, here is the chance to get with it. Just to remind: in June 1972, a bunch of nasties, some of whose day job was with the CIA but currently working

Bookends: Shady people in the sun

Carla McKay’s The Folly of French Kissing (Gibson Square, £7.99) is a very funny, cynical tale about British expatriates in the Languedoc. The blurb says ‘Toujours Provence meets Miss Marple’, though the heroine, Judith Hay, is less maidenly than the nosy-parker of St Mary Mead. A middle-aged schoolmistress, she flees to the Languedoc because it