Latest Issue: 25 October 2014
25 October 2014
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Books

23 October 2014 by Helen Castor, reviewed by Jessie Childs

There were saltires in the streets of Paris almost 600 years ago. They were sported by the adherents of John, the “fearless” duke of Burgundy, who took the city from the count of Armagnac in 1418. Men caught wearing Armagnac’s rival white sash were massacred and their bodies were stacked up “like sides of bacon – a dreadful thing”, in the words of a Parisian chronicler.

23 October 2014 by Edel Bhreathnach, reviewed by Colmán Ó Clabaigh

Although very different in approach, content and format, these books constitute two of the most important recent publications on medieval Irish history. Both represent the coming to fruition of the work of a mature scholar who has engaged with their subject for decades, indeed since childhood – both credit a parent for introducing them to what has become their life’s work.

23 October 2014 by Alan Johnson, reviewed by Terry Philpot

The second volume of Alan Johnson’s memoirs start where the first, the much-lauded This Boy, left off. Our 18-year-old hero leaves shelf stacking and takes a job as a postman, first in Barnes, west London, and then in Slough on the capital’s edge.

23 October 2014 by Samantha Harvey, reviewed by Suzi Feay

“Middle-class problems” are currently trending on Twitter, with tales of lattes containing too much foam, shops running out of quinoa and unsatisfactory skiing holidays. A bit unfair, probably, but it kept coming to mind as I read Samantha Harvey’s third novel.

Previous issues

16 October 2014 by John W. O’Malley SJ, reviewed by Hilmar M. Pabel

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the restoration of the Society of Jesus. In 1773, under intense pressure from Catholic European monarchs, Pope Clement XIV suppressed the prestigious but also much maligned religious order “for the peace and tranquillity of the Church”.

16 October 2014 by Andrew Borowiec, reviewed by Denis MacShane

The first fighting in the Second World War happened on Polish soil and continued there into April 1945. Poland was invaded first by Nazi Germany and then by Communist Russia.

16 October 2014 by John Boyn, reviewed by Mary Kenny

John Boyne is the successful author of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, a story essentially for younger readers which made a compelling movie, starring David Thewlis as a beastly Nazi running a concentration camp and satisfyingly punished at the culmination of the film.

16 October 2014 by Stephen Schloesser, reviewed by Peter Quantrill

“I don’t belong to my era,” cried Olivier Messiaen in 1979, but he did, as we all do, whether he liked it or not. During his lifetime, biographers tended to take him at his own estimation.

09 October 2014 by Adrian Goldsworthy, reviewed by Noonie Minogue

Few dictators have filled the latter years of their rule with quite such a perfume of peace, prosperity and good governance as Augustus, whose second millennial celebrations have rumbled on throughout this year.

09 October 2014 by Bernardine Bishop, reviewed by Patrick West

Bernardine Bishop died last year from a long illness, so it’s unsurprising that this posthumous novel is concerned with the themes of death and fate.

09 October 2014 by Rory MacLean, reviewed by Robert Carver

Spirit of place is a difficult essence to distil. Many excellent travel writers fail – for them the journey, the sensations of movement are paramount.

09 October 2014 by Bernard McGinn, reviewed by Alban McCoy

St thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae is a masterpiece of systematisation, universally acknowledged as the finest example of what was a relatively new literary form that had emerged in the late twelfth century.

02 October 2014 by Garry Wills, reviewed by Clare Asquith

How did she do it? Illegitimate, excommunicated, head of a disputed national Church, and, worst of all, a single woman – Elizabeth’s survival on the English throne for 45 years is one of the most remarkable political balancing acts of history.

02 October 2014 by Kerry Brown, reviewed by Simon Scott Plummer

In late 2012 the BBC ran in parallel two stories of major significance: the American presidential election and the emergence of the new Standing Committee of the Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party.

02 October 2014 by Brigid Allen, reviewed by Ian Thomson

Born in suburban Middlesex in 1931, the poet and classical scholar Peter Levi is somewhat forgotten today, which is a shame. His father, Bert Levi, had Sephardic ancestors who sold carpets in Constantinople. In 1928 his devoutly Catholic mother, Mollie, had persuaded Bert to convert.

02 October 2014 by Marilynne Robinson, reviewed by Peter Stanford

Marilynne Robinson’s exquisite, peerless novels are about nothing and everything. There is no one quite like this American writer, or quite as good as her.

25 September 2014 by A.N. Wilson, reviewed by Roy Hattersley

Queen Victoria is one of the figures from British history about whom most people know something but few people know very much. She has come to personify what is popularly regarded as a golden age of imperial glory and economic supremacy.

25 September 2014 by David Martin, reviewed by Rowan Williams

David martin does not believe in “religion”; that is, he does not think that religious belief, practice and speech can be reduced to a neat corpus of essentials that can be treated as a discrete form of human activity.

25 September 2014 by Paul M. Cobb, reviewed by Peter Jackson

In general – and increasingly over the past four decades – scholarship has tended to view the Crusades as above all an important element of medieval European history.

25 September 2014 by Ian McEwan, reviewed by Brendan Walsh

It will drive you up the wall, but do try to read this cracking novel.

25 September 2014 by Judith Wolfe

“Paths not works” was the motto Martin Heidegger chose for the collected edition of his writings, and he elsewhere remarked that “paths of thought bear in them the mystery that we can walk them forward and backward – indeed the way backward alone leads forward.”

25 September 2014 by Desmond Tutu and Mpho Tutu. Read by Hakeem Kae Kazim and Mpho Tutu. Reviewed by Julian Margaret Gibbs

Who better to write about forgiveness than Desmond Tutu, head of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, partially responsible for South Africa’s transition to peaceful racial co-existence after apartheid?