Books

Cosette, by Emile-Antoine Bayard. Illustration for Les Misérables

The classic that conquered the world

18 February 2017 9:00 am

Somewhere between his first and second drafts, Victor Hugo decided to change the title of his great novel from Les…

A whirlwind life

18 February 2017 9:00 am

The dust cover features one of the best-known caricatures of Richard Wagner, his enormous head in this version opened like…

What the secretary saw

18 February 2017 9:00 am

What the secretary sawSarah Churchwell Big Bosses: A Working Girl’s Memoir of the Jazz Age by Althea McDowell AltemusUniversity of…

Ezra Pound as a young man

The nature of genius

18 February 2017 9:00 am

On 21 December 1945, Ezra Pound was confined to St Elizabeths hospital in Washington DC. He had broadcast for Rome…

Bedside manners

18 February 2017 9:00 am

‘A tricky part of my job,’ the GP said, scrolling through the next patient’s notes, ‘is breaking good news.’ As…

The game butcher, with dead rabbits and live, caged ones beneath. (Scene from the 1840s)

Tricks of the trades

18 February 2017 9:00 am

Oddly enough, one of the most historically influential pieces of British writing has turned out to be an essay that…

Cardinal Richelieu is transformed from villain to ‘physical and moral genius’ in Dumas’s sequel to The Three Musketeers

Swash and buckle aplenty

18 February 2017 9:00 am

A feeble king and his scheming minister, a hunchback noble and the Daughters of Repentance, a botched assassination and a…

Everyday unhappiness

18 February 2017 9:00 am

This is an extraordinarily compelling novel for one in which nothing really happens but everything changes. Sara Baume’s narrator is…

In praise of LSD

18 February 2017 9:00 am

Ayelet Waldman is, surely, not the first writer to have scrolled through a list of ‘Books of the Year’ and…

Three’s a crowd

18 February 2017 9:00 am

James Lasdun’s latest novel, billed as a psychological thriller, opens in Brooklyn in the summer of 2012. Charlie and his…

Magic lantern slides from the mid-19th century

The game of life

18 February 2017 9:00 am

In the introduction to his new book Steven Johnson starts out by describing the ninth-century Book of Ingenious Devices and…

Intimations of mortality

11 February 2017 9:00 am

In Deaths of the Poets two living examples of the species, Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts, retail the closing…

Flights of fancy

11 February 2017 9:00 am

Michael Chabon’s back. He’d never gone away, of course — more than a dozen books in all — but it’s…

Bad behaviour

11 February 2017 9:00 am

Molly Keane achieved fame and critical acclaim in 1981 aged 75, when she published the novel Good Behaviour, a razor-sharp…

Recent crime fiction

11 February 2017 9:00 am

There isn’t a clear line separating crime and literary fiction, but a border zone where ideas are passed from one…

Old, unhappy, far off things

11 February 2017 9:00 am

August Geiger led an unremarkable life. Born in 1926, the third of ten children of a Catholic farming family in…

A diamond set in sapphires

11 February 2017 9:00 am

I was a young, aspiring writer when I decided to leave everything behind and move to Istanbul more than two…

A disgrace to feminism

11 February 2017 9:00 am

‘I was single, straight, and female,’ Emily Witt begins, with all the élan of an alcoholic stating her name and…

The Baron is back

11 February 2017 9:00 am

Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky was born in the wrong place at the wrong time. Had his Polish ancestor not been exiled to…

Thirtysomething blues

11 February 2017 9:00 am

If ever there was a book for our uncaring, unsharing times, it is Gwendoline Riley’s First Love, in which Neve,…

Righter of wrongs

11 February 2017 9:00 am

I used to work for Ludo, as we all knew him on BBC2’s Did You See?, and was once thought…

Cheating death

11 February 2017 9:00 am

2016 was probably the year even the most optimistic of us — those who can genuinely square the new populist…

Agonised questions

4 February 2017 9:00 am

It’s terribly difficult to write a novel about soul-searching, and Elif Shafak has come up with a rather clever device…

The lure of the desert

4 February 2017 9:00 am

The great deserts of the world hold a compelling attraction for a rare breed of men who are ‘unwise and…

Still giving peace a chance

4 February 2017 9:00 am

Tibetans were once fabled warriors. Their empire, at the summit of its power in the eighth century, extended to northern…