A well-told lie

Michael Ondaatje takes a journey into childhood


Pig in the middle

Writing an autobiographical account of middle age is a brave undertaking, necessitating a great deal of self-scrutiny at a time of life when most of us would sooner look the other way and hope for the best.

Red badge of courage

The author describes this book as an ‘auto- biographical novel’, but since it would be quite beyond me to distinguish fact from fiction in this hair-raising account of his childhood years, I propose to treat it as if it were all true, especially as I can’t imagine anyone making any of it up.


Cambridge and after

My dread was that someone would ask me my opinion of Lermontov or Superstring Theory or the Categorical Imperatives of Kant.


A charismatic narcissist

In equal measure, this book is fascinating and irritating.


A foot in both camps

As a five-year-old in the Arab quarter of Jerusalem in the 1950s, Kai Bird overheard an elderly American heiress offering $1 million to anyone who could solve the Arab-Israeli conflict.


The dying of the light

The phrasing of the subtitle is exact: a memoir in blindness, not of blind- ness.


Crisp and brave

Among my guests last weekend as I read Lord Mandelson’s book was Ben, aged two and a half.

How are you today?

How am I? Very well, thank you.


Mountain sheep aren’t sweeter

Anyone who can speak Welsh is going to get a lot of fun from this book.


Insufficiently honoured here

‘Next time it’s full buggery!’ said Christopher Hitchens as I helped him onto a train at Taunton station after a full luncheon of Black Label, Romanée-Conti, eel risotto and suckling pig.


Casualties of war and peace

John Simpson quotes Humbert Wolfe’s mischievous lampoon but makes it clear that, in spite of the somewhat disobliging title of his book, he does not accept it as fair comment.


The ghost of an egoist

Very long books appear at intervals about Fidel Castro and Che Guevara.


Survivor syndrome

In late middle age, William Styron was struck by a disabling illness, when everything seemed colourless, futile and empty to him.

Chic lit

First, I must declare an interest.

Fun and games

Sport, say those who write about it, is only the toy department of daily journalism.

Mum, dad and the music

Bob Geldof is quoted on the cover of Gary Kemp’s autobiography with untypical succinctness: ‘Great bloke, great band, great book’.

But then the snow turned to rain

My daughter when small came home from school one night singing these extraordinary lines: ‘Fortune, my foe, why dost thou frown on me/ And will thy favours never lighter be?’

It’s not all good manners

An Education, by Lynn Barber