Scourge of the ancien régime

Voltaire’s was a long and amazing life.

Prize-winning novels from France

After an unremarkable year for fiction the Prix Goncourt was awarded to Marie Ndiaye for a novel — actually three novellas — which must have beguiled the judges by the sheer unfamiliarity of its contents.

Enjoyer and endurer

I approached the late David Nokes’s scholarly book with some trepidation, having heard that it had been criticised for its apparent dismissal of James Boswell.

Squeaks and squawks

Jonathan Cecil is nostalgic for the voices of the Bloomsberries

Recent books for children

One thing which struck me immediately on surveying the books on offer for children this Christmas is the large number which are really toys, with only a minor bookish element.

Delight and horror

‘Everything that the lovingest of husbands can express to the best of wives, & love to the little ones, not forgetting the kicker in the dark,’ Jack Verney wrote to his pregnant wife in 1683.

Voices of change

Not every writer would begin a history of the 1950s with a vignette in which the young Keith Waterhouse treads on Princess Margaret by mistake.