Things I Don’t Want to Know, by Deborah Levy - review

In her powerful rejoinder to Orwell’s 1946 essay ‘Why I Write’, Deborah Levy responds to his proposed motives for writing…


Consolations of the Forest, by Sylvain Tesson - review

In this book, the French writer Sylvain Tesson spends six months, mostly alone, in a log cabin in Siberia. ‘Cold,…

Memoirs of a Leavisite, by David Elllis - review

As the author of this wise, patient and delightful book wryly reminds us, Stephen Fry — who, of course, knows…

Photographs are reproduced courtesy of Ronald Blythe

A Time by the Sea, by Ronald Blythe - review

I first encountered Ronald Blythe at Benton End, a glowing oxblood farmhouse above the river Brett, poised on the edge…

Liverpool, Merseyside, 1951

How do you define a 'northerner'?

No one seems to agree on what characterises a ‘northerner’, says Philip Hensher, and Paul Morley’s latest book leaves us none the wiser

Gustave Moreau’s vision of Cleopatra, 1887

Alexandria, by Peter Stothard - review

This subtle, mournful book is many things. It is a diary of three weeks spent, during the tense winter before…

Jacob Barnett.

The Spark, by Kristine Barnett - review

Jacob Barnett is a youthful prodigy. His IQ tested off the scale. At nine he began work on an original…

This Boy, by Alan Johnson- review

This Boy is no ordinary politician’s memoir, still less a politician’s ordinary memoir. It ends where others might begin: when…

The Last Train to Zona Verde, by Paul Theroux - review

Paul Theroux has produced some of the best travel books of the past 50 years, and some of the lamest.…


Holloway, by Robert Macfarlane - review

This is a very short book recording two visits to the hills around Chideock in Dorset.In the first Robert Macfarlane…


In a Greene shade

One of the unanticipated benefits of British rule in India is the body of distinguished writing in the English language…

Cracks in the landscape

Sartre tried to prove that hell is other people by locking three strangers in a room for eternity and watching…


Menace, mystery and decadence

Richard Davenport-Hines on the seamy side of interwar Alexandria, as depicted by Lawrence Durrell

The Devil in the mirror

As a kid growing up in Scotland in the 1950s, Dennis O’Donnell was aware of ‘loonies’, and the men in…

Don’t mention the war

It wasn’t easy being the daughter of the artist Avigdor Arikha. In this memoir, Alba Arikha mixes teenage fury with…

Settling old scores

As a boy, Brian Sewell was unimpressed by opera but enraptured by pantomime which, he reveals in Outsider, sowed in…

… in the battle for London

Charlatan, fornicator, liar, inebriate, pugilist, Marxist, anti-Semite; Ken Livingstone has been called many things but never a writer. Actually, that’s…

Blue Night by Joan Didion

This is a raw, untidy, ragged book. Well, grief is all of those things. On the other hand, Didion wrote…


Bookends: The showbiz Boris Johnson

Amiability can take you a long way in British public life. James Corden is no fool: he co-wrote and co-starred…

Fun-loving feminist

How to be a Woman is a manifesto memoir.

Casualties on the home front

War correspondents aren’t like the rest of us: they can’t be.

Wool of bat and lizard leg

When Julia Blackburn and her Dutch husband Herman move into an old village house perched on a cliff high above the Italian Ligurian Riviera they become part of a dwindling community in a landscape of forests and deserted villages with roofless ruins almost swallowed up by the riotous undergrowth.

Sense and magnanimity

People see William Rees-Mogg as an archetypal member of the Establishment.


The worst crime was to be a bore

Gully Wells is a spirited and amusing writer, the daughter of the American journalist Dee Wells and the stepdaughter of the famous philosopher Freddie Ayer.

Backs to the wall

Susan Gibbs begins her book by describing the death from cancer of her first husband after 13 years of happy marriage.