Could George V have saved the Romanovs?

Review by Gareth Russell The Imperial Tea Party by Frances Welch ★★★★☆ The Race to Save the Romanovs by Helen Rappaport ★★★★★ In 1983 Kenneth Rose, on publishing his biography of George V, found himself crossed off the Queen Mother’s luncheon party invite list, a blow she dealt with the vim and vigour usually reserved for people with…

‘I guess I’m just an old-fashioned person’: a potted history of Bill Clinton’s disastrous book tour

President-turned-thriller-writer Bill Clinton has put his foot firmly in his mouth as he seeks to promote his novel, The President is Missing. He has repeatedly misspoke when asked the inevitable questions about his affair with intern Monica Lewinsky which overshadowed his time in the White House.  Even when the conversation moves away from that topic, Clinton…

Summer fiction: the best new novels,  thrillers, crime books and short stories

Stuck for holiday reading? Whether you’re looking for literary fiction, thrilling page-turners or hardboiled mysteries, our critics have the answer Novels Kudos by Rachel Cusk Few fictional projects have been as subtly shape-shifting as Cusk’s trilogy, starting with Outline (2014) and Transit (2016), about Faye, a writer who seems to compel people to open up to…

Summer non-fiction: the best new  biographies, history, science and politics books

Stuck for holiday reading? Whether you’re looking for memoirs, historical biographies or cutting-edge science, our critics have the answer History Arnhem by Antony Beevor Beevor’s account of the Arnhem campaign, that ill-judged and deeply unlucky northward leap by the Allies into occupied Holland in 1944 (captured in the classic 1977 film A Bridge Too Far),…

How Britain Really Works by Stig Abell, review: smug and patronising, this might be the worst guide to Britain ever written

One of Stig Abell’s favourite books as a child was «something called» The Reader’s Encylopaedia, edited by «a man called» William Rose Benét, and he rather innumerately hopes that his own book, How Britain Really Works, will become «the reader’s encyclopaedia of Britain for one reader: for you, for me». It may indeed be so for him, in which case…

The Mars Room proves Rachel Kushner is one of America’s greatest living authors – review

Rachel Kushner once described her mentor Don DeLillo‘s labyrinthine, 827-page novel Underworld as a book of «hell-bent ambition». It’s an appraisal that could be applied to Kushner, too. With each novel, she leaps forward a few decades. Her captivating debut, Telex from Cuba (2008), depicted the island in the Fifties, teetering on the brink of revolution; a tropical «loser’s…

Tolkien: Maker of Middle-Earth, Bodleian Libraries, review: ‘A once-in-a-generation event’

From the entry passageway where you step across maps of Middle-earth towards the doors of JRR Tolkien’s city of Moria, the Bodleian Libraries’ tremendous Tolkien exhibition is an immersive experience. Inside, a tabletop 3D Middle-earth lights up with the unfolding routes of Tolkien’s adventurers. But the show’s success – and Tolkien’s – has nothing to…

Milkman by Anna Burns, review: a viciously funny take on the troubles

This is not exactly Belfast. The «renouncers» here aren’t exactly the IRA, the «defenders» aren’t exactly the Army. Yes, it’s the Seventies, and we’re in a «hair-trigger society» of bomb scares, hijackings, talk of «our community» and «their community», electrified signals «of murals, of traditions, of newspapers, of anthems», right up to the spectre of…

Poetry book of the month: All Under One Roof by Evelyn Schlag

When London first hosted the Olympics, in 1948, alongside boxing and canoeing there was also competitive poetry. By 2012 there were no medals for literature, but a fringe event called Poetry Parnassus invited poets from every Olympic nation to read in London. In a spirit of woolly equality there were no prizes on offer, but if there were,…

The Song of Solomon: why the Bible’s most risqué book is the perfect choice for Harry and Meghan’s wedding reading

In the 2005 film Keeping Mum, Maggie Smith’s character has an awkward chat with a man of the cloth. “The Bible: it’s full of sex,” she says. “Haven’t you noticed? Song of Solomon?” “Ah, yes,” replies Rowan Atkinson’s flustered priest. “But that’s a song between a devout man and God.” “No, it’s about sex,” asserts…

Mozart was not an alcoholic, British surgeon claims 

In Johann Georg Edlinger’s final portrait of Mozart from 1790, a year before his death, the composer is painted as puffy and bloated, his face seemingly ravaged by the effects of alcoholism. But a new book by a retired British surgeon suggests the Austrian symphonist has been unfairly maligned by his biographers, and did not…

Why the British novel lost its sense of humour

Reports of the death of the British comic novel have not, it seems, been greatly exaggerated. Earlier today, it was announced that the Wodehouse Prize for Comic Fiction had been withheld because none of the 62 submissions had prompted “unanimous, abundant laughter” from the judging panel. This is no surprise. Visit any bookshop and it…

Bonfire of the Vanities author Tom Wolfe dies, aged 87

The American author Tom Wolfe has died, his agent has confirmed.  The 87-year-old writer passed away on Monday in a Manhattan hospital after suffering from an infection.  Born in 1931 in Virginia, Wolfe worked as a journalist before finding fame for his satirical fiction. He is perhaps best known for The Bonfire Of The Vanities,…

Author Jojo Moyes donates to save adult literacy charity Quick Reads

Author Jojo Moyes will put forward £360,000 to save adult literacy charity Quick Reads. The charity, which publishes short books for adults who struggle to read, appealed last month for a new sponsor to cover its £120,000-a-year running costs, after the end of a partnership with Galaxy chocolate left it in financial difficulty. Novelist and Telegraph contributor…

Stop mocking the male midlife crisis, author Marian Keyes says

Authors must stop making a mockery of the male midlife crisis, the bestselling writer Marian Keyes has said, as she argues it is the product of «real despair» and should not be ridiculed. Keyes, who has sold more than 30 million copies of her novels worldwide, said too many books portray men as a «complete…

Ian McEwan ‘dubious’ about schools studying his books, after he helped son with essay and got a C+

Ian McEwan, the award-winning author, has admitted feeling «a little dubious» about people being compelled to study his books, after helping his son with an essay about his own novel and receiving a C.  McEwan, author of works including Atonement, Amsterdam, and On Chesil Beach, said he remained unconvinced about the purpose of asking students…

Waterstones to keep expanding under new owners Elliott, says boss

The boss of Waterstones has backed the bookseller to keep expanding on the high street after being snapped up by US hedge fund Elliott Advisors. Chief executive James Daunt branded the sale process a “distraction”, but said the deal was a “very happy outcome” and Waterstones would push ahead with its growth plans. The swoop for…

Kate Bush to write a new tribute to Emily Bronte

Kate Bush is to make her second tribute to Emily Brontë, contributing to a monument on the Yorkshire moors that inspired Wuthering Heights.  Bush said that being asked to provide words for the art installation was «an honour and, in a way, a chance to say thank you to her».   «I am delighted to…

Quick Reads: charity that published Roddy Doyle and Andy McNab to close after funding cuts

An adult literacy charity that published best-selling authors including Lynda La Plante, Andy McNab and Jeffrey Archer is to close next year after losing its funding. Since launching in 2006 the Quick Reads Initiative has distributed almost five million books, including to prisoners and hospital patients. It commissions six short books a year from famous authors,…

If you’re not enjoying a book, give up, Reading Agency says

Every dedicated reader will know that sinking feeling of battling through a book they are not enjoying just to get to the bitter end. But reader’s guilt should be officially at an end, according to The Reading Agency, as it advises simply putting down any novel which does not bring you pleasure. A poll, commissioned…

Head of Nobel Literature Prize quits over growing #metoo scandal

The Swedish Academy, which awards the Nobel Literature Prize, was plunged into crisis on Thursday after two of its members, including its head Sara Danius, resigned amid a growing crisis over a high-profile man accused of sexual assaults. «It is the Academy’s wish that I leave my post as permanent secretary,» Ms Danius said after an emergency…

Joanna Trollope receives apology after London Book Fair speaker says he’d like to ‘snog’ her

A speaker at the London Book Fair has apologised for his “crass and offensive” language after introducing Joanna Trollope as a woman he would like to “snog”. Tony Mulliken, chairman of the fair’s public relations firm, was condemned for making the “abhorrent” remark in front of an audience of writers and Trollope fans. Trollope was attending…

The City and the City: this gritty fantasy procedural is a perfect fit for David Morrissey — review

China Miéville and his fantasy procedural The City and The City, published in 2009, accumulated awards the way that magnets attract iron filings. The novelist’s more purist devotees may feel otherwise, but BBC Two’s moody adaptation, commissioned all the way back in 2015, more than hints at why. It features all the trappings of a regular murder case….

Children are swiping books in attempt to turn pages after being raised on tablets and phones 

Children are swiping on books in an attempt to turn pages, teachers have said, as they are confusing them with mobile phones and iPads. There is a “disturbing” trend of children in reception and at nursery school picking up library books and trying to “swipe left”, delegates at the National Union of Teachers (NUT) annual conference in Brighton…

Sean Penn’s debut novel makes unsubtle jabs at Trump and MeToo

Donald Trump and the #MeToo movement come under fire in a new satirical novel by Sean Penn. The Oscar-winning actor’s first novel, Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff, follows a «modern American man, entrepreneur, and part-time assassin» who challenges the US President to a duel. The protagonist addresses a thinly veiled version of Trump called «Mr Landlord»,…

Alan Bennett on the Dorset literary salon where Iris Murdoch and a young Daniel Day Lewis were visitors

When Janet Stone and her husband, the engraver and painter Reynolds Stone, married in 1938, their Dorset home became a getaway for everyone from Iris Murdoch to a young Daniel Day-Lewis, as Alan Bennett explains John and Myfanwy Piper; Reynolds and Janet Stone; Geoffrey and Jane Grigson; Edward Sackville-West and Desmond Shawe-Taylor: couples whose houses…

World Book Day: 10 YA books to read right now

Young Adult books have never been more popular. In the online book community – where readers blog, post videos and tweet about their favourite novels, transforming a traditionally private passion into a gloriously communal experience – fans can’t get enough of them. It’s not just teenagers, either: adults – even quite old adults – are…

The 100 greatest novels of all time

Our critics choose the best novels ever written, from Tolkien to Proust 100 The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkein (1954-55) Hairy-toed hobbit Frodo leaves home to defend the world from dark forces by destroying a cursed ring, in Tolkein’s epic trilogy. WH Auden thought this tale of fantastic creatures looking for lost jewellery was…

8 Reasons why mums can never win on World Book Day 

The goal is to encourage our children to read; a noble aim, of course. So why is World Book Day, which rolls around this Thursday, so fraught with emotion and angst? It’s one of those things, like school places and epidurals, whose significance is impossible to appreciate until you’ve joined the parenting club. Until then…

Bestselling author Penny Vincenzi dies aged 78

Penny Vincenzi, the bestselling author of 17 blockbuster novels, died on Sunday afternoon at the age of 78, her daughters have confirmed. Polly Harding, Sophie Cornish, Emily Gunnis and Claudia Vincenzi said: «We are incredibly touched and overwhelmed by the tributes to Penny from the industry and her readers.» They praised her for her encouragement and support, and…

History of America’s ‘banned books’ wins Benjamin Franklin House prize

A Belfast student’s survey of America’s banned and controversial books has won the 2017 Benjamin Franklin House Literary Prize. Jasmine McCrory, a post-graduate student at Queen’s University, won the £750 prize, which is awarded annually for the best essay written in response to Benjamin Franklin’s work by an author under the age of 25. McCrory’s essay praised writers such…

Michelle Obama announces ‘unusually intimate’ memoir, Becoming

Michelle Obama’s memoir, one of the most highly anticipated books in recent years, is coming out November 13. The former first lady tweeted Sunday that the book, to come out a week after the 2018 midterm elections, is called Becoming. By Sunday night, her memoir was in the top 20 on Amazon.com. «Writing Becoming has been…

After Annihilation: 10 strange sci-fi books that should be on screen

With Netflix’s adaptation of Richard Morgan’s body-hopping cyberpunk novel Altered Carbon, Alex Garland directing the adaptation of Jeff VanderMeer’s weird and symbolist Southern Reach trilogy and The Expanse’s third season set for release on Syfy this year, any number of SF and fantasy novels that were once thought unfilmable are now making their way to the screen….

Maze Runner author James Dashner dropped by agent, ‘deeply sorry’ after sexual misconduct allegations

The publisher of James Dashner, who faces allegations of sexual misconduct, is parting ways with the author. Three Penguin Random House imprints issued a statement Thursday night saying they would «not be publishing any future books by James Dashner.» One of the country’s most popular writers for young people, Dashner is known not just for…

13 Reasons Why author expelled from writers organisation following sexual harassment allegations

Best-selling children’s author Jay Asher has been expelled from a prominent writers organisation because of allegations about sexual harassment. Lin Oliver, executive director of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, told The Associated Press on Monday that Asher had violated the society’s harassment code. He was banned last year but the news only…

The heroes Lawrence of Arabia pushed out of the limelight

Pearson played a major part in a forgotten but important episode of the revolt: the formation and training of the Arab Legion, recruited from POWs who had served in the Turkish Army. Gray, an “amiable and long-suffering cipher specialist” who was separated from his fiancée, Mabel, for more than five years, did excellent work in…

‘I quit’: how to hand in the perfect resignation 

Matt Potter Resignations are history written not by the victors but by the ones who quit the field. I’ve studied them for 25 years, I’ve ghostwritten them, and they all share one thing: that they are as close as any of us will get to composing our own epitaph. Hurried memoirs, they are written at…

Poetry book of the month: Don’t Call Us Dead by Danez Smith

Blood courses through this book; either spilt in violence, or shared and tainted in love. Danez Smith, a 29-year-old American poet living with HIV, writes: “i’m not the kind of black man who dies on the news. / i’m the kind who grows thinner & thinner & thinner / until light outweighs us.” Nominated for…

Late poet Helen Dunmore wins Costa Book Award 

Inside the Wave by Helen Dunmore has been named the winner of the 2017 Costa Book of the Year, seven months after the author’s death.  Dunmore’s tenth poetry collection explores the borderline between human life and the underworld and includes her final poem, Hold Out Your Arms, which the 64-year-old penned shortly before she died…

Walking Dead star Andrew Lincoln to narrate new Harry Potter audiobook: Quidditch Through the Ages

In a change from fighting zombies, The Walking Dead‘s Andrew Lincoln is voicing wizards in a new JK Rowling audiobook. Although Stephen Fry’s voice has become synonymous with the Harry Potter books, the baton has been passed to Lincoln – star of AMC’s gory horror drama – to record Rowling’s companion volume Quidditch Through The Ages, for a new audiobook…

‘A loss which can never diminish’: Why Virginia Woolf remains one of literature’s most alluring writers

Virginia Woolf, so today’s Google Doogle tells us, would have turned 136 today. It’s somewhat of an arbitrary celebration – not least because Woolf famously took her own life at 59 – but the point remains that she is one of British literature’s most indelible figures. Woolf, for the uninitiated, helped to define the modernist…

Ursula K. Le Guin, best-selling science fiction author of Earthsea books, dies aged 88

Ursula K. Le Guin, the award-winning science fiction and fantasy writer who explored feminist themes and was best known for her Earthsea books, has died at 88. Le Guin died suddenly and peacefully Monday at her home in Portland, Oregon, after several weeks of health concerns, her son, Theo Downes-Le Guin said Tuesday. «She left an extraordinary legacy as an…

Sir Anthony Beevor slams Ukraine’s ‘preposterous’ ban on Stalingrad book

Military historian Sir Anthony Beevor is urging politicians to fight censorship after one of his books was banned in Ukraine.  The 1998 bestseller Stalingrad was barred for import last week alongside 24 other books for being «anti-Ukrainian». The accusation was levelled at Beevor’s examination of the Second World War battle due to passages about Ukrainian militias slaughtering…

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