Lead book review

When Cartier was the girls’ best friend

The word ‘jewel’ makes the heart beat a little faster. Great jewels have always epitomised beauty, love — illicit or sanctified —romance, danger and mystery. And no one knew better how to cash in on this mystique than the firm of Cartier, for years the go-to jewellers for discreet, elegant razzle-dazzle. Its customers were kings,

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What do we really mean by the ‘language’ of animals?

The reality of animal communication (or, more precisely, our belief in that reality) is a fact underwritten not by science but by direct experience. A dog owner knows that his dog communicates with him because he makes eye contact with it, notices its body movements, listens to its barks and whines and yips, and associates

It’s yellow, not green, that’s the colour of jealousy

Making attributions to Leonardo da Vinci,  the great art historian Adolfo Venturi once remarked, is like ‘picking up a red-hot iron’. Those who wish to avoid injury, he advised, should exercise great caution. Whether or not the scholars who attributed the ‘Salvator Mundi’ to the great man are now suffering from badly burnt fingers —

Could Leslie Jamison please stop sitting on the fence?

Leslie Jamison is creating quite a stir in America. Her first collection of essays, The Empathy Exams, went straight to the New York Times bestseller list, and this second collection comes crowned in laurels: ‘She’s an unstoppable force of nature,’ says her American editor. ‘This is the essay at its creative, philosophical best,’ says Eleanor

Poland was no walkover for the Reich

‘The victor will never be asked if he told the truth,’ Hitler remarked on the eve of invading Poland in September 1939. Nobody believed his claim that Germany was acting in self-defence; but they did believe his carefully crafted propaganda to the effect that the Poles were so dumb they used cavalry armed with lances

The exotic Silk Road is now a highway to hell

This engaging book describes the Norwegian author’s travels round the five Central Asian Stans — a region where toponyms still make the heart beat faster: Samarkand, Bukhara, Tashkent. Fittingly, given the means by which foreign powers have harmed the Stans, Erika Fatland begins her story with the disastrous methane spill which Soviet geologists caused in