Charlotte Moore

Ireland through the eyes of a brilliant teenage naturalist

Dara McAnulty is a teenage naturalist from Northern Ireland. He has autism; so do his brother, sister and mother — his father, a conservation scientist, is the odd one out. This book records a year in the life of a gifted boy in an unusual family. Minutely detailed observations of birds, insects, trees and weather

Anything for a good story

When I was at boarding school in the early 1970s, the Durrells, or at least Gerald, were immensely popular. My Family and Other Animals made us laugh out loud; we squealed as the scorpions skittered across the family’s dining table and groaned empathetically when Margo kissed the mummified feet of St Spiridion in an attempt

Old, unhappy, far off things

August Geiger led an unremarkable life. Born in 1926, the third of ten children of a Catholic farming family in western Austria, the most unusual thing about him was his unwillingness ever to leave Wolfurt, the village where he had grown up. He built a house there, for his schoolteacher wife and their children, and

The don’ts of ‘parenting’

In the American way, the child psychologist Alison Gopnik’s new book has an attractive sound-bitey title dragging a flat-footed subtitle in its wake: ‘What the New Science of Child Development Tells Us about the Relationship Between Parents and Children’.  And what this new(ish) science tells us is that we parents — or at least, our

Mother courage

Helen Stevenson’s daughter Clara has cystic fibrosis. Love Like Salt is an account of living with the disease, but it is much else besides. Stevenson calls it a memoir, because it is an intensely personal version of events. It is also a scrapbook, a commonplace book, a series of meditations, an exercise in self-scrutiny. It

Toxic fun with Mum and Dad

In 2008, when Taylor Wilson was 14, he created a working nuclear fusion reactor, ‘a miniature sun on earth’. At 17 he entered his home-made radiation detector for inspecting cargo at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair; his project was entitled ‘Countering Nuclear Terrorism: Novel Active and Passive Techniques for Detecting Nuclear Threats’. In

Powers of persuasion: how Churchill brought America on side

In time for the 50th anniversary of Churchill’s death comes this pacy novel about his attempts to persuade the Americans to join the war. It is January 1941; President Roosevelt’s special envoy Harry Hopkins arrives in Blitz-torn London and is subjected to Churchill’s charm offensive. Hopkins, a chain-smoking, hard-drinking man of principle with a dislike

Sabina Spielrein: from psychiatric patient to psychoanalyst

Sabina Spielrein was a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst with groundbreaking ideas about the role of the reproductive drive in human psychology and the link between Darwinism and psychoanalytic theory. She was a pioneer of play therapy for children, and the first hospitalised psychiatric patient to progress to practising psycho-analysis. She worked with, among others, Freud, Jung

The history of the home – with the spittoons put back in

In 1978, a family of Russian ‘Old Believers’ living in a supposedly uninhabited part of the Siberian taiga were discovered by a team of geologists. They had fled Stalinist persecution, and for half a century had lived in isolation in a ‘low, soot-blackened log kennel’ with a floor made of potato peelings and crushed nutshells,

Andrew Marr thinks he’s a novelist. I don’t

It’s September 2017, and our still apparently United Kingdom is in the throes of a referendum campaign. The wise, charming, beloved Prime Minister, successor to ‘the shortlived Johnson administration’, wants to keep us in the EU. Olivia Kite, a spike-heeled mixture of Elizabeth I (Horrible Histories version) and Rebekah Brooks, heads the ‘No to Europe’

In love with the lodger

Champion Hill, Camberwell, 1922. A mother and daughter, stripped of their menfolk by the Great War, struggle to make ends meet in their genteel villa. Servantless, Mrs Wray keeps up appearances while her daughter Frances confronts the reality of hands-and-knees housework. Reluctantly, they advertise for ‘paying guests’, and are rewarded with Leonard and Lilian Barber,

Start with a torpedo, and see where you go from there

Sebastian Barry’s new novel opens with a bang, as a German torpedo hits a supply ship bound for the Gold Coast. We experience everything through the senses of ‘temporary gentleman’ Jack McNulty — an Irish officer in the British army with a short-term commission. Brimful of whiskey, his racing winnings jingling cheerily in his pocket,

Did Hurricane Katrina have an angel of mercy — or an angel of death? 

On 28 August 2005 — Sheri Fink’s Day One — Hurricane Katrina reached New Orleans. The National Weather Service warned that ‘human suffering will be incrdible by modern standards’. Fink’s enormous book chronicles that suffering as experienced inside the Memorial Medical Centre, one of the city’s biggest hospitals. Traditionally, staff had sheltered from hurricanes in

Why Jeremy Paxman’s Great War deserves a place on your bookshelf

The Great War involved the civilian population like no previous conflict. ‘Men, women and children, factory, workshop and army — are organised in one complete unity of social resistance, to defend themselves both by offence and by ordinary defence,’ said Ramsay MacDonald. Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy, the popular army padre nicknamed ‘Woodbine Willie’, declared ‘There are

Another Restoration romp

Robert Merivel made his first appearance in 1989, in Restoration, Rose Tremain’s popular and acclaimed Carolingian novel. The passage of time has left the Everyman doctor sadder and theoretically wiser, but still in thrall to his master, Charles II, still priapic, still governed by ‘uncontainable appetites’. He sits in his chilly library at Bidnold, his

The Son, by Philipp Meyer – review

Colonel Eli McCullough, formerly known as Tiehteti, is a living legend. The first male child born in the Republic of Texas, wrested from Mexico in 1836, Eli has miraculously reached the age of 100. Captured by Comanche Indians in boyhood, he mastered their survival skills, and was well on the way to becoming the most

The Professor of Poetry, by Grace McCleen – review

Elizabeth Stone, English professor at UCL,  has long lived on ‘paper and words and thin air’. Single, friendless, dessicated, respected, she passes out during a faculty meeting and wakes to find herself ‘attached by a chain of spit to her own cardigan’. A brain tumour is diagnosed, and removed. Expecting death, Elizabeth receives the news