Lead book review

Drowning in mud and blood

George Orwell’s suggestion that the British remember only the military disasters of the first world war is certainly being borne out by the centenary commemorations. The focus of each year so far has been Gallipoli, the Somme and now the Third Battle of Ypres, popularly known as Passchendaele. The basic story is familiar. On 31

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A cacophony of complaint

What sort of monster gives a bad review to a book by someone who was gang raped as a 12-year-old and subsequently goes on to eat herself to over 40 stone? Probably the sort of monster who’s never read a book about fatness as a feminist issue which she found convincing. Here we go again:

… trailing strands in all directions

Letters of Intent — letters of the intense. Keen readers of Cynthia Ozick (are there any other kind?) will of course already have copies of the books from which these often fiery essays have been selected. There’s a broad range of work represented here, from personal essays through to Ozick’s often rather profound philosophical enquiries

Spirits from the vasty deep…

‘The sea defines us, connects us, separates us,’ Philip Hoare has written. His prize-winning Leviathan, then a collection of essays called The Sea Inside and now RISINGTIDEFALLINGSTAR together make a loose, meditative trilogy on people, the ocean, its inhabitants, its threats and delights, the comings and goings, the whole tidal business, its excitements and its

The dark side of creativity

In Eureka, Anthony Quinn gives us all the enjoyable froth we could hope for in a novel about making a film in the 1960s — champagne, drugs, threesomes, gangsters, a Silver Cloud Rolls-Royce, hula-hooping girls and Pucci scarves flung over smears of vomit. Underneath, however, lies an intellectual question. The film is an adaptation of

Rules of behaviour

It’s the constant dilemma of the pop science author: how to write something flashy enough to grab readers, but solid enough that it won’t be embarrassing in a few years when the science has moved on. Full scientific rigour entails tedious jargon and even more tedious equations, and nobody wants that. But neither should the

Black prince or white knight?

We cannot know for sure how Edward the Black Prince earned his sobriquet. For some it was the volatile mixture of his aggressive temperament and brutal conduct in war; for others it derives from his armour, as displayed on his tomb at Canterbury Cathedral. The cover of Michael Jones’s splendid new biography of this compelling

His own worst enemy | 27 July 2017

One fail-safe test of a writer’s reputation is to see how many times his or her books get taken out of the London Library. Here, alas, John Lodwick (1916–1959) scores particularly badly. If The Butterfly Net (‘filled with a lot of booksy talk and worldly philosophising,’ Angus Wilson pronounced in 1954) has run to all

Down – if not out – in Paris

Virginie Despentes remains best known in this country for her 1993 debut novel, Baise-Moi, about two abused young women who set off on an orgiastically murderous road-trip round France. In 2000, she became notorious when she collaborated on the hardcore film of the book, which ran into certification problems, with Alexander Walker fulminating about the

Towering extravagance

The Shard is an unnecessary building. Nobody apart from its developer asked for it to be built. Nobody was crying out for a big spike of concrete, steel and glass filled with a mix of superluxury hotel, ultraprime apartments and loads of speculative offices right above London Bridge station, with an expensive viewing gallery as