Leaf Arbuthnot

My summer of love with God’s gift

When the author and podcaster Viv Groskop first visited Ukraine, she travelled there from Moscow, on a long train that ran eventually beside a field of sunflowers. They were, she recalls in her lovely and modestly scaled memoir, like a ‘blast of sunshine screaming: “Welcome to Ukraine! You are no longer in Russia!”’ The year

This sceptred isle: the fantasy realm of Redonda

There is an island in the Caribbean so small that it doesn’t appear on many world maps. Its name is Redonda; one of its kings, the Spanish writer Javier Marías, died two months ago. It’s an unforgiving place, uninhabited and windswept, basically a large rock a mile long and about a third of a mile

An immorality tale: Lapvona, by Ottessa Moshfegh, reviewed

Has there been a better novel this century than Ottessa Moshfegh’s My Year of Rest and Relaxation? There might not have been. The book was a hit when it came out in 2018 and had a second wind during the pandemic, when readers found themselves ‘resonating’ with its cabin-fever plot. Not that there was much

University Challenge: the next education mess

31 min listen

While the government’s U-turn on A-level and GCSE results has been widely welcomed, universities are still in a dire state – why? (00:55) Plus, has Boris Johnson got the right approach in his war on fat? (15:00) And finally, are illegal raves during the pandemic socially irresponsible, or just young people sticking it to The

Private tragedies: Must I Go, by Yiyun Li, reviewed

I can think of few novels as bleak or dispiriting as Yiyun Li’s 2009 debut, The Vagrants. Set in a Chinese industrial town in 1979, it opens with one woman’s death and closes with another. The pages in between are jammed with misery meted out by scalpel: treacherous friends, underfed children, craven officials, all have

Audio Reads: Fredrik Erixon, James Forsyth, and Leaf Arbuthnot

25 min listen

On this week’s Audio Reads, Swedish economist Fredrik Erixon reads his cover piece explaining how European nations are all flying blind in the pandemic. James Forsyth advocates a complete rewiring of the British state. And Leaf Arbuthnot, whose novel Looking For Eliza is released this week, extolls the joys of Zoom raves.

How to go clubbing without leaving your living room

To my surprise, what I miss most about life before the lockdown are parties. As others pine for restaurants and theatres, I am longing for sticky floors and 4 a.m. Ubers. Give me plastic cups and music so loud you feel it in your kidneys. Sylvia Plath wrote disparagingly of the ‘shrill tinsel gaiety of

Bill Bryson: It’s impossible to be sick of England

‘It’s remarkable that bad things don’t happen to us more often,’ notes Bill Bryson in his latest book, a look at the ‘warm wobble of flesh’ that is the human body. He wrote it long before coronavirus upset the world, but parts of it are particularly relevant now. Viruses worth their salt know how to

My crush on Jeremy Corbyn is no longer cool

There are some crushes that ought to be crushed. When I was about nine, I fancied our village vicar — he had a pleasant, boring face and would throw Mars bars into the congregation during sermons. Things came to a halt after I saw him by chance at a local swimming pool. Underneath his cassock