Books

CIA spies lose faith

20 February 2021 9:00 am

With its grim John le Carré atmosphere, communist Eastern Europe in the late 1980s was a melancholy, out-at-elbow place. The…

A complex creation myth: Alexandria, by Paul Kingsnorth, reviewed

20 February 2021 9:00 am

‘Challenging stuff,’ my wife remarked, having alighted on the page of Paul Kingsnorth’s new novel in which a character named…

Reality and online life clash: No One is Talking About This, by Patricia Lockwood, reviewed

20 February 2021 9:00 am

Some writers — Jane Austen, for example — get to funny sideways, using irony and understatement. The American poet and…

Geology’s dry, rocky road

20 February 2021 9:00 am

There has been an argument recently on Twitter about how to do nature-writing. Should it involve the self? Should it…

When poison is the cure: examining today’s processed meat

20 February 2021 9:00 am

Who Poisoned Your Bacon Sandwich?is a much more sophisticated read than its lurid English title suggests. Guillaume Coudray’s book was…

On the track of a mysterious recluse: Maxwell’s Demon, by Steven Hall, reviewed

13 February 2021 9:00 am

This is not the age of experimental fiction — it’s Franzen’s, not Foster Wallace’s. That shift was on its cusp…

What does ownership of land really mean?

13 February 2021 9:00 am

At the end of the last century, Simon Winchester bought 123 acres of wooded mountainside in the hamlet of Wassaic,…

The cannibal feast: Mother for Dinner, by Shalom Auslander, reviewed

13 February 2021 9:00 am

Seventh Seltzer is a nice family man, working as a publisher’s reader in New York, who happens to come from…

Who in their right mind would choose to be a forensic psychiatrist?

13 February 2021 9:00 am

When police were called to a block of flats in north London at the beginning of 2002, they expected to…

Francis Bacon: king of the self-made myth

13 February 2021 9:00 am

In 1953, Francis Bacon’s friends Lucian Freud and Caroline Blackwood were concerned about the painter’s health. His liver was in…

The serious rows at Marvel Comics

13 February 2021 9:00 am

If Marvel characters seem dysfunctional, just look at their creators, says Dorian Lynskey

From cheap sex comedies to gritty brilliance: British culture comes of age

6 February 2021 9:00 am

As readers of a certain age will realise, Looking for a New England derives its title from ‘A New England’,…

Imagining a future for John Keats — the novelist

6 February 2021 9:00 am

Keats is a much stranger poet than we tend to realise – who shocked his first readers by his vulgarity and gross indecency, says Philip Hensher

Social mobility has become a meaningless mantra

6 February 2021 9:00 am

‘Whatever your background,’ Margaret Thatcher told the Sun’s readers in 1983, she was determined that ‘you have a chance to…

A phoenix from the ashes: 17th-century London reborn

6 February 2021 9:00 am

Tragically, the current pandemic lends this sparkling study of London in its most decisive century a grim topicality — for…

Betrayal was a routine business for George Blake

6 February 2021 9:00 am

Kim Philby once remarked to the journalist Murray Sayle that ‘to betray, you must first belong. I never belonged’. Kim,…

A toxic atmosphere: Slough House, by Mick Herron, reviewed

6 February 2021 9:00 am

Mick Herron has been called ‘the John le Carré of his generation’ by the crime writer Val McDermid, and in…

A bubo-busting muckfest: Hurdy Gurdy, by Christopher Wilson, reviewed

6 February 2021 9:00 am

In an essay for Prospect a few years back the writer Leo Benedictus noticed how many contemporary novels used what…

How did Robert Maxwell fool most of the people most of the time?

6 February 2021 9:00 am

‘Everyone’s heard of Ghislaine Maxwell,’ says the blurb for Power: The Maxwells, a podcast series launched last month. ‘But there’s…

My mother’s secret life was a Dickensian horror story

6 February 2021 9:00 am

What happens to a child raised without love? This is the agonising question that the American lawyer Justine Cowan braces…

Queer Teen Craze

30 January 2021 9:00 am

It is remarkable how quickly the cause of transgenderism has moved from being a strange object at the back of…

Lives unlived: Light Perpetual, by Francis Spufford, reviewed

30 January 2021 9:00 am

Francis Spufford was already admired as a non-fiction writer when he published his prize-winning first novel, On Golden Hill, in…

A bored business administrator in Leicester puts the intelligence services to shame

30 January 2021 9:00 am

In the summer of 2012, a man was walking near Jabal Shashabo, a Syrian rebel enclave, when he spotted a…

Memory – and the stuff of dreams

30 January 2021 9:00 am

Can you remember when you heard about 9/11? Chances are you’ll be flooded instantly with memories — not only where…

One of the last men-only jobs left — offshore in the North Sea

30 January 2021 9:00 am

As a child, I loved the Ladybird ‘People at Work’ series. I had the ones on the fireman, the policeman,…