Recent Reviews

George III

Author:
Andrew Roberts

Media:
The Times

Review Date:
September '21

In 1803 a British satirical cartoon depicted George III and Napoleon Bonaparte as “the Rival Gardeners”. On opposite sides of the English Channel, the men are shown tending to crowns growing in tubs hooped with gold. In comparison to Bonaparte’s immature crown, which is drooping and wilting, George III’s thrives on top of a vigorous oak sapling. “The Corona Britannica, and Heart of Oak, will flourish to the end of the World,” the British monarch boasts.

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Goya: A Portrait of the Artist

Author:
Janis A. Tomlinson

Media:
The Times Literary Supplement

Review Date:
June '21

"Is biography essentially the chronicle of an individual’s life journey (and thus a branch of history, employing similar processes of research and scholarship), or is it an art of human portraiture that must, for social and psychologically constructive reasons, capture the essence and distinctiveness of a real individual to be useful both in its time and for posterity?”

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The Women of Troy

Author:
Pat Parker

Media:
The Times Literary Supplement

Review Date:
August '21

The Women of Troy is Pat Barker’s sequel to The Silence of the Girls, itself a continuation of the author’s interest in anti-war sentiments and ideas, most notably explored in her Regeneration trilogy (1991–5), set during the First World War. Like its immediate predecessor, The Women of Troy plunges us into the world of Greek mythology, shifting between a first- and third-person narrator.

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The Fall of Robespierre: 24 Hours in Revolutionary Paris

Author:
Colin Jones

Media:
The Spectator

Review Date:
August '21

Colin Jones’s hour-by-hour reconstruction of the fall of Maximilien Robespierre, the French revolutionary most associated with the Terror, is inspired by Louis-Sébastien Mercier, who believed that only by getting ‘up close’ to the ‘infinitely small’ details would it be possible to understand the truth about a Revolution that was stranger than fiction.

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China Room

Author:
Sunjeev Sahota

Media:
Times Literary Supplement

Review Date:
May '21

The china room of Sunjeev Sahota’s third novel is a narrow outbuilding with a small slatted window on a farm in rural Punjab. In 1929 it is where three brides – Mehar, Gurleen and Harbans – live and work, segregated from the three brothers who are their husbands: Jeet, Suraj and Mohan. The widowed matriarch Mai controls the lives of all six young people: her sons need her permission to have sex with their wives, in a windowless chamber at the back of the farm; the veiled women are, for reasons kept deliberately obscure, not even permitted to know which of the brothers they are married to.

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Absentees

Author:
Daniel Heller-Roazen

Media:
Times Literary Supplement

Review Date:
April '21

The marking of absence is an early memory for all who went to school; the calling of the classroom register in the morning, punctuated by silence after the name of a missing child. “Absent?” asks the teacher, looking up from the alphabetical list. “Absent”, the class confirms. And the sick or absconding child knows that this ritual is occurring, that her place though vacant is not lost, that the “A” beside her name will be replaced by a tick when she returns.

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Sybille Bedford: An appetite for life

Author:
Selina Hastings

Media:
Times Literary Supplement

Review Date:
February '21

“Aged seventy-seven, John Betjeman regretted that he had not had enough sex. Aged eighty-seven, Sybille Bedford wished she had written more books and spent less time in love. Both remarks were made casually in interviews, but Betjeman’s is more believable. Bedford pursued romantic relationships with other women throughout her long life (she died in 2006 aged ninety-four). Usually these were easily available, but in rare periods of loneliness, she actively sought new lovers. In her seventies, she went occasionally with friends to the lesbian Gateways Club on the Kings Road, conveniently close to her flat in Old Church Street.”

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The Craft: How the Freemasons made the modern world

Author:
John Dickie

Media:
Times Literary Supplement

Review Date:
February '21

“In his entertaining history of Freemasonry, John Dickie, the author of an internationally successful book about the Sicilian Mafia (Cosa Nostra, 2004), describes the global network of lodges and secret rituals as “one of Britain’s most successful cultural exports, comparable to sports like tennis, soccer and golf”.

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The Life and Loves of Mary Wollstonecraft

Author:
Sylvana Tomaselli

Media:
The Spectator

Review Date:
January ‘21

“What did Mary Wollstonecraft like and love? This is the question Sylvana Tomaselli, a lecturer at Cambridge University, asks herself at the start of her new book about the writer and philosopher who is often described as ‘the mother of feminism’. After the unveiling of Maggi Hambling’s controversial statue in honour of Wollstonecraft on Newington Green last November, and the vitriolic spats between its detractors and supporters that ensued, a book that refocuses attention on the person at the centre of the storm is a welcome relief.”

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