Nicky Beard on holiday in Cornwall shortly before his death

Two small boys in the sea

8 April 2017 9:00 am

An estimated 400,000 people drown annually worldwide, 50 per cent of them children. Roughly 150 drownings occur in the UK.…

Not everyone’s dream: the Simpson Desert, Australia

Dreaming of wide open spaces

1 April 2017 9:00 am

On the website of the Australian National University in Canberra, emeritus professor of history Barry Higman lists his research interests…

Anna Magnani: Fellini describes her circling the Pantheon, laden with bags, feeding stray cats

The sweet life turns sour

1 April 2017 9:00 am

Shawn Levy specialises in chronicling 20th-century hotspots such as London in the Sixties and Sinatra’s Vegas. Here, he turns his…

The man who’s read everything

1 April 2017 9:00 am

According to Martin Amis in The Information, the last person to have read every book ever published was Coleridge. Faced…

George (left) and Willie Muse were exhibited for decades as fairground freaks — billed as ‘sheep-headed cannibals from Ecuador’ or ‘ambassadors from Mars’

The saddest show on earth

1 April 2017 9:00 am

It’s the early 20th century, and two strange-looking boys, purportedly twins named Iko and Eko, are playing in a circus…

Out of hot water

1 April 2017 9:00 am

During and after the second world war the Fourteenth Army in Burma became famous as the Forgotten Army, almost as…

Back to basics

1 April 2017 9:00 am

Tim Parks is a writer of some very fine books indeed, which makes it even more of a shame that…

A choice of recent thrillers

1 April 2017 9:00 am

A young Norwegian police officer finds a rusting vintage car inside a locked and disused barn, and the presence of…

Who’s the expert now?

1 April 2017 9:00 am

The title might be taken as a provocation. In the compressed language of digital media, white tears, like first-world problems…

Furry fury

1 April 2017 9:00 am

Thanks to Henry Williamson and Gavin Maxwell I have spent hours in the company of otters, though I have only…


Welsh wizardry

1 April 2017 9:00 am

When Stravinsky visited David Jones in his cold Harrow bedsit, he came away saying, ‘I have been in the presence…

The best sort of magic realism

25 March 2017 9:00 am

Michael Fishwick’s new novel tells the story of a young man called Robbie, who has been uprooted from his London…

A genial green guide to 2000 AD

25 March 2017 9:00 am

I can recall exactly where I was 40 years ago when I didn’t buy the first issue — or ‘prog’…

The burning of Savonarola (detail) Getty Images

Mach the Knife

25 March 2017 9:00 am

The business of banking (from the Italian word banco, meaning ‘counter’) was essentially Italian in origin. The Medici bank, founded…

Boualem Sansal

Prophesying doom

25 March 2017 9:00 am

Boualem Sansal’s prophetic novel very clearly derives its lineage from George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. A totalitarian surveillance state, a fundamentalist…

George Fox, founder of the Quakers, was no fanatic, but a practical man of God. He is likened to St Francis of Assisi for his ‘charistmatic blend of literalness and freedom’

Holy heroes

25 March 2017 9:00 am

The Reformation is such a huge, sprawling historical subject that it makes sense, in this the 500th anniversary of Martin…

Susan Hill

The road to independence

25 March 2017 9:00 am

Alone with her father’s dead body, Olive Piper says, ‘I don’t know anything, except what I feel, and how can…

Sana Krasikov

An epic for our times

25 March 2017 9:00 am

Trailing rave US reviews, fan letters from Yann Martel and Khaled Hosseini and a reputation as ‘Doctor Zhivago for the…

Portrait of Talleyrand by Ary Scheffer

Charming old fox

25 March 2017 9:00 am

Talleyrand was 76 when he took up the post of French ambassador in London in 1830. Linda Kelly deals only…

Lenin centre stage — as the great self-promoter

The man and the moment

25 March 2017 9:00 am

The centenary of the Russian Revolution has arrived right on time, just as the liberal democratic world is getting a…

Bear essentials

25 March 2017 9:00 am

In Yoko Tawada’s surreal and beguiling novel we meet three bears: mother, daughter and grandson. But there will be no…

Changing lanes

25 March 2017 9:00 am

It’s fair to say Sonja Hansen’s life has stalled. Forties, tall and ungainly, veteran of failed relationships, she’s an uncomfortable…

‘Family Scene’, by Kahlil Gibran, c. 1914

Beautiful thoughts for all occasions

25 March 2017 9:00 am

Kahlil Gibran was 40 years old, a short — he was just 5’3” — dapper man with doleful eyes and…

‘The Forty Martyrs of England and Wales’ by Daphne Pollen. The two foreground figures are Margaret Clitheroe and Nicholas Owen, the priest-hole maker. Behind Margaret Clitheroe, with arms crossed, is Edmund Campion. Philip Howard, 1st Earl of Arundel, is in doublet and hose beside the greyhounda

Reason and faith

18 March 2017 9:00 am

Roy Hattersley would never have been born had it not been that his mother ran away with the parish priest…

The brisk, implacable Sir Maurice Hankey (second from right) stands between Ramsay Macdonald and Franz von Papen at the Reparations Conference in Lausanne in 1932

Secrets of the secretaries

18 March 2017 9:00 am

The minister’s private secretary wrote to another cabinet minister about the previous day’s cabinet meeting: They cannot agree about what…