Italian dictator Benito Mussolini (Photo: Getty)

Umberto Eco really tries our patience

7 November 2015 9:00 am

Colonna, the protagonist of Umberto Eco’s latest novel, is the first to admit he is a loser. A middle-aged literary…

Will Boast

Life doesn’t care if your misery has a plot – but readers do

24 January 2015 9:00 am

Sometimes writers have to get a memoir out of their system before they can start on their great novel. Will…

Author Adam Thirwell Photo: Ulf Andersen/Getty

Lurid & Cute is too true to its title

24 January 2015 9:00 am

One of the duties of a reviewer is to alert potential readers to the flavour and content of a book,…


A ghost story without the scary bits

24 January 2015 9:00 am

Two men walk into an ice cream parlour in Austin, Texas, order the three teenage girls working there to undress,…

(Photo: Central Press/Getty Images)

Jacqueline Wilson: 'The first book that made me cry'

12 April 2014 9:00 am

Rumer Godden’s An Episode of Sparrows, first published in 1955, focuses on the roaming children — the ‘sparrows’ — of a shabby street in bomb-torn London. When ten-year-old Lovejoy Mason finds a packet of cornflower seeds and decides to create an ‘Italian’ garden hidden in a rubble-strewn churchyard, the consequences are life-changing for all who become involved. Below is the foreword to a recent reissue of the novel (Virago Modern Classics, £7.99, Spectator Bookshop, £7.49).

Francis King   Photo: Denis Jones/Evening Standard /REX

From frankness to obsession - the novels of Francis King

1 March 2014 9:00 am

Paul Binding reassesses the novels of Francis King, who died last year

Sting, William Burroughs and Andy Summers Photo: Getty

William S. Burroughs was a writer – not a painter, prophet, philosopher

8 February 2014 9:00 am

William S. Burroughs lived his life in the grand transgressive tradition of Lord Byron and Oscar Wilde and, like all…

A wounded soldier is carried through the mud near Boesinghe during the battle of Passchendaele in Flanders Photo: Getty

When No Man's Land is home

25 January 2014 9:00 am

Countless writers and film-makers this year will be trying their hand at forcing us to wake up and smell the…

Woman in black: Madeleine St John, due for revival. 
‘Her steadiest relationships were with a series of cats’

Breakdowns, suicide attempts — and four great novels

18 January 2014 9:00 am

Among the clever young Australians who came over here in the 1960s to find themselves and make their mark, a…


The many attempts to assassinate Trotsky

4 January 2014 9:00 am

Leon Trotsky’s grandson, Esteban Volkov, is a retired chemist in his early eighties. I met him not long ago in…

Margaret Drabble at the offices of publisher McLelland Stewart Photo: Toronto Star via Getty

Margaret Drabble tries to lose the plot

30 November 2013 9:00 am

Halfway through her new novel, Margaret Drabble tells us of Anna, the pure gold baby of the title, ‘There was…

Ann Patchett Photo: The Washington Post via Getty Images

Ann Patchett's new book will win you over, in spite of yourself

30 November 2013 9:00 am

Ann Patchett’s novels revel in the tightly constructed ecosystems imagined for their characters: an opera singer besieged among diplomats in…

Elizabeth Taylor (left) chats with Pamela Hansford Johnson, 1954 Photo: Getty

Angel, by Elizabeth Taylor - review

30 November 2013 9:00 am

‘She wrote fiction?’ Even today, with the admirable ladies at Virago nearly finished reissuing her dozen novels, Elizabeth Taylor remains…

Thirty Years on2

Rebus is good, but not as sharp as he once was

16 November 2013 9:00 am

Cig 1 Auld Reekie . . . Edinburgh . . . brewers’ town, stinking of beer, whisky, tweeness, gentility, hypocrisy,…

(Photo: The Art Archive/Anthony Stewart / NGS)

The thrill of the (postmodern neo-Victorian) chase

9 November 2013 9:00 am

Charles Palliser’s debut novel The Quincunx appeared as far back as 1989. Lavish and labyrinthine, this shifted nigh on a…

Black Sheep 2

Village life can be gripping

2 November 2013 9:00 am

Black Sheep opens biblically, with a mining village named Mount of Zeal, which is ‘built in a bowl like an…


The imitable Jeeves

2 November 2013 9:00 am

For as long as I can remember — I take neither pleasure nor pride in the admission — I have…


Carlos Acosta, the great dancer, should be a full-time novelist

2 November 2013 9:00 am

Carlos Acosta, the greatest dancer of his generation, grew up in Havana as the youngest of 11 black children. Money…

‘The Goldfinch’ by Carl Fabritius, the theft of which is central to Donna Tartt’s new novel

Donna Tartt can do the thrills but not the trauma

12 October 2013 9:00 am

Donna Tartt is an expert practitioner of what David Hare has called ‘the higher hokum’. She publishes a long novel…

What a coincidence

12 October 2013 9:00 am

If you are going to read a novel that plays with literary conventions you want it written with aplomb. In…

Colonel Georges Picquart

An Officer and a Gentleman, by Robert Harris - review

5 October 2013 9:00 am

The Dreyfus Affair, the furore caused by a miscarriage of justice in France in 1894, is a source of perennial…

Stephen King isn't as scary as he used to be, but 'Doctor Sleep' is still a cracker

5 October 2013 9:00 am

Though alcohol withdrawal is potentially fatal, booze has none of the media-confected glitz of heroin (imagine Will Self boasting of…

Monsieur le Commandant, by Romain Slocombe - review

28 September 2013 9:00 am

There can be few characters in modern fiction more unpleasant than Paul-Jean Husson, the narrator in Romain Slocombe’s Monsieur le…

One Night in Winter, by Simon Sebag Montefiore - review

28 September 2013 9:00 am

Simon Sebag Montefiore’s One Night in Winter begins in the hours immediately following the solemn victory parade that marked the…

Expo 58, by Jonathan Coe - review

21 September 2013 9:00 am

In 1958 a vast international trade fair was held just outside Brussels. As well as being a showcase for industry,…