Books

When Britannia ruled the southern waves

29 August 2020 9:00 am

In 1798, Tipu Sultan of Mysore sent an embassy to Mauritius. At home, he had fought the British and seen…

Treasures or clutter? The problem of knowing what to keep

29 August 2020 9:00 am

Every so often the past makes a pass at you. An old school report, a train ticket, a curl from…

My dazzling chum: Mayflies, by Andrew O’Hagan, reviewed

29 August 2020 9:00 am

Presumably because a small part of it takes place in Salford, the epigraph to Andrew O’Hagan’s latest novel consists of…

Never a dull sentence: the journalism of Harry Perry Robinson

29 August 2020 9:00 am

Is Boris Johnson a fan of Harry Perry Robinson? If he isn’t, he really ought to be. Reading this absorbing…

A story without redemption: The Lying Life of Adults, by Elena Ferrante, reviewed

29 August 2020 9:00 am

‘I don’t at all hate lies,’ Elena Ferrante explained in Frantumaglia, her manifesto for authorial anonymity. ‘I find them useful…

She just keeps rollin’ along: Colombia’s Magdalena River

29 August 2020 9:00 am

As Colombia comes out of 50 years of civil war and into a still precarious peace, with some 220,000 dead,…

Toussaint Louverture: the true hero of Haiti

29 August 2020 9:00 am

Toussaint Louverture’s ‘crazy dream’ for Haiti has still to be realised, says Amy Wilentz

Bombs over London: V for Victory, by Lissa Evans, reviewed

22 August 2020 9:00 am

Lissa Evans has been single-handedly rescuing the Hampstead novel from its reputation of being preoccupied by pretension and middle-class morality.…

Should we all be prepping for the end of days?

22 August 2020 9:00 am

In the Covid-19 crisis the calamity-howlers have found a vindication: go back to survival mode and bunker down because nobody…

Beauty and the beast: Jane Birkin’s love affair with Serge Gainsbourg

22 August 2020 9:00 am

I met Jane Birkin’s parents, who flit across these pages. Her mother, Judy Campbell, was an actress in Noël Coward…

In just eight years Selim I became ‘God’s Shadow on Earth’

22 August 2020 9:00 am

Faber must take a rather dim view of British readers’ historical awareness these days. This is a biography of one…

A rainy day in the Highlands: Summerwater, by Sarah Moss, reviewed

22 August 2020 9:00 am

There is an old Yorkshire tale about a prosperous town which, legend has it, once stood on the site of…

It’s time to leave Chopin in peace

22 August 2020 9:00 am

There’s a scene early on in A Song to Remember — Charles Vidor’s clunky Technicolor film of 1945 — in…

Sport, for the English, has always been a defiant assertion of liberty

22 August 2020 9:00 am

The history of English sport reflects a defiant people determined to protect their ancient prerogatives, says Alex Massie

Anatomy of fiction

15 August 2020 9:00 am

By more than a mile the best book I have read during the pandemic is Tim Finch’s Peace Talks. It…

Who is telling the truth in Kate Reed Petty’s True Story?

15 August 2020 9:00 am

This debut novel, which opens with ‘a high- school lacrosse party in 1999 and the rumour of a sexual assault,’…

The power of disinformation is that it’s so readily believed

15 August 2020 9:00 am

On 27 November 1960 African and Indian diplomats visiting the UN in New York opened their mail to find a…

A toast to brotherhood: Summer, by Ali Smith, reviewed

15 August 2020 9:00 am

The concluding novel of Ali Smith’s seasonal quartet is a family affair. Her intergenerational group of seeming strangers from the…

When the King of the Delta Blues came home — the family life of Robert Johnson

15 August 2020 9:00 am

Whatever would Robert Johnson, self-styled King of the Delta Blues, have made of the Black Lives Matter movement? His was…

Magic and miasma: Mordew, by Alex Pheby, reviewed

15 August 2020 9:00 am

Mordew ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids, as Elton John nearly sang. If they escape the ravages…

The crusaders were not such incompetent zealots after all

15 August 2020 9:00 am

One of the strange effects that modernist, progressive society has had on what the French Annales school would refer to…

When Paris was the only place to be

15 August 2020 9:00 am

For more than 100 years Paris has been as much a symbol and a myth as a geographical reality. The…

Private tragedies: Must I Go, by Yiyun Li, reviewed

15 August 2020 9:00 am

I can think of few novels as bleak or dispiriting as Yiyun Li’s 2009 debut, The Vagrants. Set in a…

The pleasures — and trials — of knowing Bruce Wannell

15 August 2020 9:00 am

Bruce Wannell was by some way one of the most charismatic travellers I have ever met. Despite his almost complete…

The Big Tech firms are dividing the world between them

15 August 2020 9:00 am

Cory Doctorow on the vast, impersonal forces manipulating our lives