Latest Issue: 30 August 2014
30 August 2014
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Books

28 August 2014 by G.K. Chesterton, reviewed by Raymond Edwards

Chesterton’s Father Brown holds an unexamined but stubborn place among the Great Detectives; the reissue of the five collections of stories featuring him is a chance to ask the embarrassing question, Is he, are they, any good?

28 August 2014 by Ben Shepfard, reviewed by Chris Nancollas

Psychology, the science of the mind, only really began to coalesce into a respectable discipline towards the end of the Victorian era. It aimed to free our understanding of the mind from the shackles of superstition, and bring tidy scientific methodology to mystical speculation.

28 August 2014 by Patricia Ferguson, reviewed by Clarissa Burden

ONCE AGAIN Patricia Ferguson has set a novel in Cornwall. Many of the characters from her last book, The Midwife’s Daughter, reappear here, along with plenty of new ones, as Ferguson continues to trace the changing lives of women between the two world wars.

28 August 2014 by Karen Bartlett

If you were a fan of pop music in the Sixties, you will remember Dusty Springfield. Born Mary O’Brien, a Catholic girl born in West Hampstead, her haunting voice was often to be heard on transistor radios, while her striking peroxide blonde hair and heavy eye make-up made her a symbol of Swinging London.

Previous issues

21 August 2014 by Nicholas King, reviewed by Richard Bauckham

Very few people have singlehandedly translated the whole Bible into English. Even William Tyndale did not manage to complete the task. So Nicholas King’s translation is a remarkable achievement. It is also distinctive in that the Old Testament (which includes the “deuterocanonical” books) is translated from the ancient Greek version (the Septuagint), rather than from the Hebrew.

21 August 2014 by James Hall, reviewed by Marina Vaizey

We live in the age of the selfie. Everybody can do it, and everybody does. It is hardly, however, the “examined life”. James Hall’s cultural history examines a different kind of looking at our selves, that of the professional visual narrator of both the inner and the outer life.

21 August 2014 by Teresa Whitfield

Mystery surrounds the Basques, their language and their history. Much of this is because their tongue is older than the Indo-European from which all the other languages of Europe descended, and because the earliest Basque written texts do not emerge till the late Middle Ages, having been passed on orally from successive generations for millennia.

21 August 2014 by Philip Hensher, reviewed by Caroline Jackson

Of all the qualities required to write a novel, confidence is one of the most vital. Philip Hensher has confidence in spades, not only in his reach but in his readers’ stamina. His self-assurance and brio invests The Emperor Waltz with quasi-Victorian breadth and length, and with stylish authority.

14 August 2014 by Alana Harris, reviewed by James Sweeney

One of the things Pope Francis picks out in his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium is the importance of popular religiosity. It is now widely acknow­ledged that an unintended consequence of the transformation of Catholic consciousness at the time of the Second Vatican Council was a neglect of the ordinary forms of piety.

14 August 2014 by Michael Broers, reviewed by Jonathan Wright

Napoleon had little affection for the Catholic Church, but, as Michael Broers points out, he “realised how central to French culture Catholicism remained”, so in 1800 he instructed his minions to negotiate a Concordat with the representatives of Pius VII.

14 August 2014 by Paul French, reviewed by Simon Scott Plummer

IN 2005, when Kim Jong-il ruled North Korea, Paul French published a history of that repulsive but fascinating state. Now, with the third of the dynasty, Kim Jong-un, in charge, he returns to the theme at greater length.

14 August 2014 by Nicola Barker, reviewed by Sue Gaisford

THIS enormous novel is a nightmare to review, but one must try. Forgive the direct approach: if you keep reading you may understand.

07 August 2014 by Rupert Shortt, reviewed by Mark Chapman

The current and the previous occupants of the throne of St Augustine at Canterbury could hardly be more different. Rowan Williams, who served from 2002 to 2012, is someone of prodigious intellect, with a theological wisdom ranging across virtually the whole of the discipline.

07 August 2014 by David I. Kertzer, reviewed by Richard Owen

GIVEN THE attention devoted to Pope Pius XII and Naziism in recent years, it is salutary to be reminded that his predecessor Pius XI grappled with much the same kind of challenges and dilemmas.

07 August 2014 by Prue Shaw

You might expect an introduction to The Divine Comedy written by one of the world’s foremost Dante scholars, an Australian-born, much admired academic in British universities for several decades, who has spent many a year working in the dark corners of libraries decoding manuscript after manuscript, to be astute and accomplished, perhaps even definitive.

07 August 2014 by Niall Williams, reviewed by Michael Paul Gallagher

Ruth Swain, 19, suffers from a strange undefined illness and lies in bed, in an attic room near the River Shannon in County Clare, where the skylight streams with rain. Surrounded by nearly 4,000 books inherited from her father, she is writing an unusual family history, seeking to understand the mystery of her poet father.

31 July 2014 by Philip C. Almond, reviewed by Peter Stanford

It’s the “new” bit in the subtitle that caught my eye. I confess to a slight hurt, as when I offer to lend my teenage son a treasured jacket and he groans, “Oh, Dad, that’s so last century.” Some 18 years ago, I wrote my own biography of the Devil, and of course thought it very new at the time.

31 July 2014 by Stephen Parker, reviewed by Malcom Forbes

Towards the end of his life, Bertolt Brecht explained that his commitment to theatre began “when I found other plays wrong”. It is tempting to believe that Stephen Parker embarked on his biography after finding previous efforts wanting.

31 July 2014 by Richard Benson, reviewed by Paul Routledge

In a a 2005 review of Richard Benson’s first book, The Farm, I described it as “a neat little tribute to a lost way of life” on the Yorkshire Wolds. I also lamented, “If only a miner’s son could emulate his achievement. Perhaps it is too soon, yet.”

31 July 2014 by Mai Jia, translated by Olivia Milburn, reviewed by Amanda Hopkinson

Philosophers and scientists have yet to establish the point where mathematics meets metaphysics or where infinity becomes eternity. Such speculations and ruminations are not an obvious topic for a best-selling first novel.