More from Books

The hammer of the Scots

This is a book from beyond the grave — the last that Hugh Trevor-Roper wrote, and though it is unfinished, there is no mistaking the sting in the tale. There was nothing the Regius Professor of History at Oxford enjoyed more during his lifetime than annoying the Scots. From time to time he would break

Wisdom from beyond the grave

A few years ago a friend of mine, a writer, attended a conference with Kurt Vonnegut. During coffee breaks and intervals my friend would sneak outside with Mr Vonnegut, Vonnegut to smoke his famous unfiltered Pall Malls and my friend to smoke a couple of Marlboro Lights. ‘What was he like?’, I asked, as if

Fighting Gerry on two fronts

The Battle of Britain and the campaign by the French Resistance make ideal settings for fiction, since they are full of potential for conflict, romance, adventure, heroism and moral dilemmas. In this first novel, Patrick Bishop has exploited these rich possibilities to produce a gripping story. He has already proved himself a fine military historian,

Nothing ever new out of Africa

When I was a young doctor working in what was still Rhodesia, I read a book by a nun who was also a political economist. She demonstrated that land reform was not only a requirement of social justice but would lead to greatly increased agricultural output, since African peasant farmers cultivated their land more intensively

Might is always right

Since the first political trial in modern history — that of Charles I in 1649 — not a single one has ended in the aquittal of the accused. That tells us everything. In no other category of trial would a perfect record for the prosecution be conceivable. In this important, timely, and cogently argued book

Giving the boy a bad review

William Brett reviews Juan Gabriel Vásquez’s new novel Do we carry the sins of our fathers? This sentiment may seem archaic — reminiscent, for instance, of the revenge cycles that play out in Greek tragedy. But in the Colombia of Juan Gabriel Vásquez’s The Informers, the notion of generational retribution is all too contemporary. In

Triumph of the polymaths

Books about London tend to be macrocosmic or microscopic in approach. The macrocosmic or Ackroydian study is vast, discursive and, in the case of Peter Ackroyd at least, jubilantly idiosyncratic. The micro- scopic concentrates on one small aspect of the whole — medieval drainage or Cheapside brothels in the time of Hogarth. James Hamilton and

The lark and the economist

Mirabel Cecil reviews Judith Mackrell’s biography of Lydia Lopokova . Judith Mackrell describes her subject as ‘a star whom the world almost forgot’. Lydia herself lamented, on the death of Pavlova, that ‘a dancer can leave nothing behind her. Music will not help us to see her again and to feel what she could give us, nor

The circle of a lonely psychiatrist

Honor Clerk on Siri Hustvedt’s latest novel Born into a second generation Norwegian immigrant family, Erik Davidsen is a divorced New York psychoanalyst with his fair share of sorrows and with a close circle of relations and acquaintances who in turn have their sorrows too. He is a compassionate and sensitive man and the troubles

A dying fall

Judith Flanders reviews Stephen Galloway’s novel about the siege of Sarajevo  Many novels about war deal with the horrors of the front line, of the terrors of battle. Steven Galloway, in this accomplished, gripping book, instead explores what happens to people who are caught up between warring factions. What happens when you wake up one morning

Forward to the past | 28 May 2008

When the planes flew into the Twin Towers many rushed to declare it the end of the end of history. But it was not. All the plans that emerged immediately afterwards about how to remake the Middle East were premised upon the assumption that history was at an end; that the world was moving inexorably

Two sides of the dark continent

How would you like your Africa? Sweet and smiling or bold and bloody? A reassurance of a fundamental human goodness or a suspicion that we are all rotten to the core? Whichever you want, you can find it in one of these two very different books. The Swedish author Henning Mankell is best known for

Life and Letters

A fortnight ago Sam Leith, reviewing Neil Powell’s book on the Amises, father and son, wrote: Powell is insistent — and for all I know dead right, but that’s hardly the point — that Kingsley was a sufferer from depression. Of the last sentence of The Anti-Death League (‘There isn’t anywhere to be.’), he writes: