Books

The intractable battle Premium

28 April 2016 | by Richard Gaillardetz
A righteous anger reverberates from the Irish theologian Gabriel Daly. He has witnessed sundry abuses at the hands of an authoritarian Church and now, in the autumn of his life, he speaks out.

Urban sprawl Premium

28 April 2016 | by James Feerguson
London may be the capital of the UK, but it is no longer an English city. More than half of its inhabitants were born abroad, and most of those have arrived in the last decade.

What is a man? Premium

28 April 2016 | by Emily Holman
Goethe, widely (and mistakenly) credited with coining the phrase “world literature”, or Weltliteratur, remarked that “like all things of supreme value, [art] belongs to the whole world”. I don’t know about the whole world, but David Szalay’s new novel certainly has a stronger claim than most to being a “European novel”.

Stalin was a liberal Premium

28 April 2016 | by Robert Carver
In Enver Hoxha’s Albania everyone was potentially guilty of everything. As the laconic joke went: “Three men are in prison. One asks, ‘What are you in here for?’ ‘I supported Popoviç. And you?’ ‘I opposed Popoviç. And you?’. ‘I am Popoviç’.”

The royal Scot Premium

21 April 2016 | by Geoffrey Scott OSB
It covers barely two years, and is over 600 pages long. So what prompted Jacqueline Riding to compile what is the most comprehensive account in modern times of the ’45 Jacobite rebellion? As she perceptively demonstrates, Jacobite concerns reflect three hugely contentious issues: Scottish opposition to the Union, Britain’s economic competition with the rest of Europe, and the ways an invading rebel army might maintain its hold on occupied territory.

A year for living dangerously Premium

21 April 2016 | by Brian Morton
David Hepworth has started something. Mixtapes and personal playlists are nothing new, but the man who once fronted The Old Grey Whistle Test and co-founded Q magazine (and so needs to be listened to) has thrown down a gauntlet and done so with the airy erudition that has always characterised his rock writing.

Over the water Premium

21 April 2016 | by Julian Margaret Gibbs
It is the early fifties and Eilis lives in south-west Ireland with her widowed mother and older sister Rose. Life is narrow: she works as a part-time assistant in the grocery shop of the tyrannical Miss Kelly and her brothers have had to go to England for jobs.

Master of the dark arts Premium

21 April 2016 | by Jonathan Wright
For a man who ruled over 1530s Florence, Alessandro de’ Medici left frustratingly little reliable evidence for his future biographers. “In many cases”, Catherine Fletcher admits, “I have only a single source, and cannot check the facts.

Sacred landscapes Premium

14 April 2016 | by Peter Davidson
This remarkable new book by Ann Wroe is an extended meditation on light, especially as it plays on the chalk landscape behind the south-coast towns of England, where she has walked since childhood. Like all her work, there are felicities of phrasing and cadence on every page, and each of the six chapters offers something of the taut coherence and closeness of the structure of musical variation.

Minding the gap Premium

14 April 2016 | by Jane O’Grady
A centuries-old assumption held throughout Christian Europe was that we have, indeed are, souls. But what is a soul, and how can it be fitted into a scientific world view? George Makari, a historian of psychiatry, charts the “hybrid” philosophical and scientific attempts from Descartes onwards to make this accommodation.

Irish gothic Premium

14 April 2016 | by James Moran
Here is an eerily mesmerising debut novel that revolves around three fascinating characters: a mute girl called Clara, her epicurean guardian, Mr Crowe, and his mannered servant, Eustace. They live in a large country estate, in a setting that is geographically and chronologically ambiguous, able to enjoy a library full of treasures, including a Shakespeare First Folio.

Fanning the flames Premium

14 April 2016 | by Marcus Tanner
A mark of lazy journalism is a tendency to say one war is just like another, better-known war. Journalists descending on Bosnia in the 1990s were fond of venturing that the Yugoslav War resembled the Spanish Civil War – with which it had almost nothing in common.

We have a word for it Premium

07 April 2016 | by John Cottingham
Set against the grand traditional questions of philosophy about the nature of the cosmos and our place within it, a philosophical enquiry into the human capacity for language may not initially seem the most exciting of topics.

Singular spirit Premium

07 April 2016 | by Carlene Bauer
Samuel Beckett once leafed through a book of Robert Lax’s poems in the mid 1980s, looked up and said, “This is good, isn’t it?”

A reign in Spain Premium

07 April 2016 | by Andrew Breeze
Alfonso the Wise was a ruler, warrior, lawgiver, poet, scholar and patron of arts and sciences.

The great trailblazer Premium

31 March 2016 | by John M. Rist
Robin Lane Fox, though no fellow Christian, admires Augustine’s literary skills and his perceptiveness about human social life – and therein are this book’s strengths and weaknesses.

Women on the edge … Premium

31 March 2016 | by Sue Gaisford
If you are female, then you’re a daughter. Of course you might also be a sister, wife, mother, aunt, niece, grandmother or mistress, but you have to be a daughter. No escape. This seems to be the notion behind the title of a book that dwells on the lives of seven generations of the lonely daughters of the House of Sackville-West.

In the soup Premium

31 March 2016 | by Robert Carver
“Fog everywhere. Fog up the river … fog down the river ... fog in the eyes of Greenwich pensioners … fog in the stem and bowl of the afternoon pipe of the wrathful skipper, down in his close cabin: fog cruelly pinching the toes of his shivering ’prentice on deck.

Cold comfort Premium

31 March 2016 | by Madeleine Minson
It seems such a promising prospect. Finland-Swedish author Ulla-Lena Lundberg’s novel has an intriguingly remote setting, on a small island in the Finnish archipelago, where the fishing and farming community is tight-knit.

Fighting back Premium

24 March 2016 | by Alban McCoy
The pervasiveness of relativism, the sidelining of religion to the realm of the private and, perhaps, just good manners, have all conspired to make apologetics unfashionable. Until, that is, the advent of so-called “New Atheism”.

Travelling hopefully Premium

24 March 2016 | by Christopher Howse
I discovered on page 281 of Tom Bissell’s Apostle that I’m a bird dog. You may remember the Everly Brothers’ deployment of the term: “Johnny is a joker that’s a-tryin’ to steal my baby (he’s a bird dog)”.

Paris by night Premium

24 March 2016 | by Amanda Hopkinson
Patrick Modiano is a very quiet writer, so much so that news of his winning the 2014 Nobel Prize in Literature was an astonishment outside his native France – and surprised many even of his fellow citi­zens.

Mopping up Premium

24 March 2016 | by Sarah Hayes
Lucy Lethbridge’s previous book, Servants: a downstairs view of twentieth- century Britain, looked at what life was like for the millions of people employed in domestic service.

Sale or return? Premium

24 March 2016 | by Christopher Bray
This intellectual history of Europe in the seventeenth century – which Professor Grayling describes as “the gestation period of the modern mind” – gets off to a lively start.

No saint Premium

17 March 2016 | by Eliza Filby
Tom Bower – previous books No Angel: the secret life of Bernie Ecclestone and Sweet Revenge: the intimate life of Simon Cowell – is not celebrated as a hagiographer, but even by his standards this relentless assault on his latest subject makes for depressing, and somewhat exhausting, reading.

Taste and see Premium

17 March 2016 | by Kirsty Jane McCluskey
James martin’s book reads more like a long homily than a volume on spirituality. That’s because it is a homily: a set of reflections delivered at St Patrick’s Cathedral, New York, on Good Friday last year.

A troubled ministry Premium

17 March 2016 | by Caroline Jackson
As Elizabeth Bowen observed in 1942, with characteristic precision and tragic prescience, “In the matter of the Troubles and Ireland and houses and behaviour on both sides, no fiction could improve upon or exaggerate reality.”

Preaching hate Premium

17 March 2016 | by Nicholas Vincent

Uncertainties of science Premium

10 March 2016 | by James Le Fanu
The three decades after the Second World War were arguably the most productive in the long history of science. A string of fundamental insights into the nature of the universe came in rapid succession: the Big Bang Theory of its origin...

On the contrary Premium

10 March 2016 | by Clare Short
I had looked forward to reading this. I had of course heard of Christopher Hitchens, a Trotskyist turned neoliberal and strong supporter of the Iraq war. He was born and educated in the UK but spent most of his adult life in the US.

Out of control Premium

10 March 2016 | by Julian Margaret Gibbs
This terrific recording of George Eliot’s enormous final novel restores a classic to us. Juliet Stevenson’s warm, intelligent voice lulls us out of our resistance to Eliot’s slow nineteenth-century pace, revealing anew the writer’s marvellous characterisation and her acute grasp of issues that still affect women.

The impresario of Fleet Street Premium

10 March 2016 | by Maurice Walsh
A recurring motif in the mournful commentary on the recent announcement of the demise of The Independent – or more accurately, its move online – was that of a singular voice being silenced.

The third man Premium

03 March 2016 | by Raymond Edwards
Among the less spectacular literary consequences of Hitler’s war was the wholesale move of the Oxford University Press’ London branch to Oxford. Its staff included Charles Williams, an editor in his mid fifties with an industrious literary bent and curious religious interests.

Writing competition Premium

03 March 2016 | by Peter Stanford
There is a cameo role for St Francis de Sales in Anthony Quinn’s hugely impressive new novel. The heroine, Freya Wyley, has just gone up to Oxford in 1945, fresh out of the Wrens, and calls in on fellow fresher Nancy Holdaway, who has a devotional portrait of the saint on her mantelpiece.

Peace and war Premium

03 March 2016 | by André Van Loon
Anecdotal, gossipy, irreverent, focused on personalities rather than broad historical movements: this sumptuous, old-fashioned narrative history is wonderful entertainment.

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