Peter Parker

Francois Truffaut, by Anne Gillian – review

Almost 30 years after his death, François Truffaut remains a vital presence in the cinema. Terrence Malick and Wes Anderson are among maverick directors who have acknowledged their debt to him, while Noah Baumbach’s recent Frances Ha is in part an hommage à Truffaut in a way the French director would have appreciated: for example,

The Hermit in the Garden, by Gordon Campbell – review

In his 1780 essay On Modern Gardening Horace Walpole declared that of the many ornamental features then fashionable, the one ‘whose merit soonest fades’ was the hermitage. Inspired by the ancient cells of genuine religious anchorites, but largely decorative, garden hermitages had flourished in Britain during the 18th century. While some were appropriately primitive in

The Blind Man’s Garden, by Nadeem Aslam – review

Set in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, Nadeem Aslam fourth novel begins with two young Pakistani men slipping over the border into Afghanistan. Jeo is a third-year medical student who has secretly volunteered to treat those wounded in the ‘war against terror’, and he is accompanied by his adopted brother Mikal, who works at a

The land of lost content

Published at the author’s expense in 1896, A.E. Housman’s A Shropshire Lad did not at first attract many readers. It was only after it had been taken up by an ambitious young publisher called Grant Richards that it began to sell. The poems’ popularity increased further when English composers, deciding that they had found their

Blending the old with the new

Holker Hall is situated in a beautiful Cumbrian landscape within sight of Morecambe Bay, and in 1950 it became the second stately home, after Longleat, to be opened to the public. The house itself dates back to the 16th century, with a Victorian west wing replacing one that burned down in 1871. It is, however,

Girls and boys come out to play

‘You are in the polymorphous-perverse stage,’ the school psychiatrist tells the assembled boys of Favorite River Academy in Vermont in the late 1950s. Just how polymorphously perverse his audience turns out to be would have surprised even Dr Grau, had he not fallen over drunk one evening and frozen to death. It is no accident

Photo finish

Christopher Isherwood kept diaries almost all his life. The first extant one dates from 1917, when he was 12, and like most schoolboys he used it more to measure than record his days: ‘Work in morning, walk in afternoon. In choir. More work. Nothing special.’ At Cambridge, however, inspired by the W.N.P. Barbellion’s The Journal

The greatest show on earth | 10 December 2011

Jessica Douglas-Home’s aptly titled book is based on the diaries of her grandmother Lilah Wingfield, who attended the Delhi Durbar in 1911 and then spent some weeks touring India. It is a glimpse of Empire from a privileged position since Lilah was the daughter of a viscount and the grand-daughter of an earl, brought up

Poetry in paint

At the age of just 21, Samuel Palmer produced one of British art’s greatest self-portraits. At the age of just 21, Samuel Palmer produced one of British art’s greatest self-portraits. Although he is wearing the clothes of the period (1826), the face that surmounts the casually fastened soft high collar is both Romantic and modern,

Citizen of the world

When Francis King returned to Oxford at the age of 24 in order to resume an education interrupted by the second world war, he had already published two novels. ‘Eager to publish more’, he decided to switch from Classics to what he saw as the easier option of English so as to leave more time

Goodbye to Berlin

Peter Parker is beguiled by a novel approach to the lives of Europe’s intellectual elite in flight from Nazi Germany In his time, Heinrich Mann was considered one of Germany’s leading writers and intellectuals. Unlike his rivalrous younger brother Thomas, who always put his literary career before any other consideration, Heinrich was an early and

In the pink

In 1988 Katherine Swift took a lease on the Dower House at Morville Hall, a National Trust property in Shropshire, and created a one-and-a-half acre garden in what had been a field. In The Morville Hours (2008), she placed that garden in its landscape and wrote one of the finest books about the history, philosophy

Planting a dream

Every schoolboy knows the story of six-year-old George Washington taking his ‘little hatchet’ to his mother’s prized cherry tree. Every schoolboy knows the story of six-year-old George Washington taking his ‘little hatchet’ to his mother’s prized cherry tree. Less well known is that in later years he more than made up for this childish piece