Book reviews

The missing millions

19 March 2011 12:00 am

Victor Sebestyen is haunted by some newly translated eye-witness accounts, written by both captor and captives, detailing the horrors of the Gulag


12 March 2011 6:00 am

About 80 per cent of books sold in this country are said to be bought by women, none more eagerly than Joanna Trollope’s anatomies of English middle-class family life. Her 16th novel, Daughters-in-Law (Cape, £18.99), is sociologically and psychologically as observant as ever, showing how not to be a suffocatingly possessive mother-in-law.

Ravishing beauty

12 March 2011 12:00 am

For a composer who gave so much delight to so many, Ravel occupies a peculiar position in 20th-century music.

Pastures new

12 March 2011 12:00 am

On 20 September 1949, five days after his election as Chancellor of the newly created German Federal Republic, Konrad Adenauer addressed the Bundestag: ‘Much unhappiness and much damage’, he told the deputies, ‘has been caused by denazification .

Massacre of the innocents

12 March 2011 12:00 am

‘La justice flétrit, la prison corrompt et la société a les criminels qu’elle mérite’ — Justice withers, prison corrupts, and society gets the criminals it deserves.

The family plot

12 March 2011 12:00 am

Hisham Matar is a Libyan-American writer whose father, Jaballa — an opponent of Gaddafi — was kidnapped in Cairo in 1990.

A bit of a softie

12 March 2011 12:00 am

Tom Bower’s fearsome reputation as a biographer preceded him in the Formula One paddock.

‘This time it will be different’

12 March 2011 12:00 am

Philip Hensher recalls the costly Soviet adventure in Afghanistan in the 1980s, and compares it to the British involvement there in the 19th century and the present day

Bookends: Deeply peculiar

5 March 2011 6:00 am

The kraken legend is often said to have been inspired by real sightings of giant squid, and this is why Wendy Williams in her Kraken: The Curious, Exciting and Slightly Disturbing Science of Squid (Abrams, £12.99) has chosen this as a title for her book.

Desk-bound traveller

5 March 2011 12:00 am

With a new novel each year, Robert Edric cannot have much time for courting London’s literary establishment, but does he stay at home in East Yorkshire? The London Satyr is set in 1890s London and to me, a Londoner, it seems not merely researched but felt, as if its author has tramped the streets and occupied the world of his characters.

In fine feather

5 March 2011 12:00 am

The telephone rang and it was Mark Amory, literary editor of this magazine.

Planting a dream

5 March 2011 12:00 am

Every schoolboy knows the story of six-year-old George Washington taking his ‘little hatchet’ to his mother’s prized cherry tree.

Death of the Author

5 March 2011 12:00 am

The death of the Polish-born British novelist Joseph Conrad is the central event of David Miller’s debut novel.

Black swan

5 March 2011 12:00 am

At a time when publishers seem chary of commissioning literary biographies, the conditions for writing them have never been better.

Recent crime novels

5 March 2011 12:00 am

Andrew Rosenheim is building a solid reputation for intelligent, thoughtful thrillers driven by character and theme rather than plot mechanics.

A reluctant country

5 March 2011 12:00 am

The unification of Italy 150 years ago was a terrible mistake, according to David Gilmour, imposing a national state on a diverse collection of people with little sense of patria. But Barry Unsworth thinks it’s too early to cry failure

Bookends: Life underground

26 February 2011 6:00 am

For the first 17 days of their ordeal, the Chilean miners trapped underground last year were forced to ration themselves to one sliver of tuna every 36 hours. Less than a month later, while still down the mine but after rescuers had secured them regular food supplies, they threatened to go on hunger strike.

The messiah is betrayed

26 February 2011 12:00 am

A monsoon of literature will eventually be written about the WikiLeaks story.

Hand over fist

26 February 2011 12:00 am

When King Abdullah first started work on this political memoir two years ago, he can hardly have imagined how different the Middle East would look by the time of its publication.

Visions of boyhood

26 February 2011 12:00 am

Among the many photographs in this comprehensive history is one of a master in a clerical collar.

Desk-bound, needing to get out more

26 February 2011 12:00 am

Great House is an ambitious novel, if it’s a novel at all.

Getting the balance right

26 February 2011 12:00 am

Branko Milanovic is the lead economist at the World Bank’s research department, a professor at the University of Maryland and a grand fromage at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace too.

So farewell, John Bull

26 February 2011 12:00 am

His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Fisher, keen to counter the dreadful spectre of the atomic bomb in the 1950s, observed that the very worst it could do would be to sweep a vast number of people at one moment from this world into the other, more vital world, into which anyhow they must all pass at one time.

A negative outlook

26 February 2011 12:00 am

Western civilisation may have dominated the world for centuries, but from the start of the new millennium the dynamics have shifted east. Sam Leith investigates

Dark, moral and lyrical

19 February 2011 12:00 am

A story in Edna O’Brien’s new collection — her 24th book since 1960 — shows us a mother and daughter who are thrilled to be taking tea with the Coughlans, posh new arrivals in their rural west of Ireland parish.