Portrait of an artistic provocateur: Blue Ruin, by Hari Kunzru, reviewed

Whatever happened to the likely lads and lasses of the East London art scene at the high noon of Cool Britannia? Hari Kunzru’s seventh novel, Blue Ruin, loads much else on to its ideas-rich plate – not least a pandemic yarn set in the panic-stricken spring of 2020. At its core, however, his plot traces contrasting afterlives from the Sensation generation. It reconnects three survivors – two male artists and the woman both loved – from a time when making conceptual art could feel like ‘a kind of social repair’, even a ‘utopian laboratory’. In his earlier career, Kunzru himself seemed to belong in a gilded group of younger British

The great deception: The Book of Goose, by Yiyun Li, reviewed

As introductions go, ‘My name is Agnès, but that is not important’ does not have quite the same confidence as ‘Call me Ishmael’. But there’s a reason for this. Agnès Moreau, the narrator of Yiyun Li’s disconcerting, mesmerising fifth novel The Book of Goose, only became a storyteller by accident. Writing from Pennsylvania, where the ‘French bride’ Agnès raises geese, she remembers post-war rural France and her childhood in Saint Rémy. She and her friend Fabienne, avoiding other girls their age, spent their days lying among gravestones and minding cows – until Fabienne decides that they should write a book together. Fabienne’s stories are dark – dead babies, dead children,

Solving the mystery of mass almost ruined Peter Higgs’s life

In 1993 William Waldegrave, the science minister, was looking into a project being planned on the continent. Cern, the European research body, was upgrading its particle collider to create what it called the Large Hadron Collider. This underground apparatus ran beneath the French-Swiss border and it was so vast that its diameter equalled that of the Circle Line. Two beams of subatomic particles called protons would be fired around this subterranean loop in opposing directions and smashed together at 99.99 per cent of the speed of light. The scientists’ aim was to prove the existence of a fundamental particle called the Higgs Boson, which they hoped would appear momentarily from