Lead book review

A tidal wave of grief

Most victims of the 1755 Lisbon earthquake — which convinced Voltaire there could be no God — perished not in the six-minute tremor, but in the tsunamis which foamed up the Tagus soon after, causing devastation as far away as Brazil. These towering sheets of water can have an impact greater than that of a

More from Books

Rumbles in the jungle

A CIA agent, a naive young filmmaker, a dilettante heir and a lost Mayan temple form the basis of Ned Beauman’s latest, and arguably most impressive, novel. Two rival expeditions set off from the United States to the jungles of Honduras to find the temple — one with the intention of using it as a

Return to the lost city

During a press interview in Bombay about his latest book, the author-narrator of Friend of My Youth feels ‘a surge of bile’ against the novel. That imperialist bully of a genre has ‘squatted on the writer’s life’ and defines his ‘sense of worth or lack of it’. Our narrator, as it happens, is named ‘Amit

The pleasures of reading aloud | 24 August 2017

‘I have nothing to doe but work and read my Eyes out,’ complained Anne Vernon in 1734, writing from her country residence in Oxfordshire to a friend in London. She and her circle of correspondents (who included Mary Delany, the artist and bluestocking) swapped rhyming jokes, ‘a Dictionary of hard words’, and notes on what

Light at the end

It’s an irony of our secular age that the more we fear death, the more enticing we find it. The past few years have seen a slew of bestsellers on the subject — Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal, Julian Barnes’s Nothing to be Frightened Of, Paul Kalanithi’s When Breath Becomes Air, Henry Marsh’s Do No Harm

Manning up

Is this the best book I’ve ever read on the subject of masculinity? Maybe it is, I thought, the first time I read it. And then I thought, Tom Wolfe’s A Man in Full is about masculinity. So is Hemingway’s Death in the Afternoon, David Vann’s Goat Mountain and Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho. But

Making sense of an unjust world

These three timely works of creative nonfiction explore the question of race: chronicling histories of colonialism and migration; examining the institutionalisation of prejudice; and charting movements of change and the resistance to change. Maxine Beneba Clarke’s memoir, The Hate Race, tempers a tale of schoolyard trauma with gentle humour; Reni Eddo-Lodge’s debut, Why I’m No

Swine fever

‘Rightly is they called pigs,’ says a farmworker in Aldous Huxley’s Crome Yellow as he watches porkers grunt and squelch. Pía Spry-Marqués has no time for such nominative determinism. ‘Pigs,’ she points out, ‘are in fact quite clean animals.’ Wallowing in mud isn’t nostalgie de la boue, merely the only way of keeping cool if