Radium Relationships

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Per Olov Enquist’s last book to be translated into English was the masterly and prize-winning The Visit of the Royal Physician. Now, once again, he has taken an historical story and used it as a vehicle for enquiry into love, art and death. He treats these big themes with miniaturist care and attention, while his […]

Posted in 340 | Tagged | Comments Off on Radium Relationships

Parallel Lives

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

The practice of abandoning twins at birth was one of the traditions in the Nigerian village of Keti which didn’t survive the onslaught of colonialism and the arrival of the first missionary, Reverend Drinkwater, in 1918. Mamo, the protagonist of prize-winning author Helon Habila’s ambitious second novel, is grateful for the destruction of this particular […]

Posted in 340 | Tagged | Comments Off on Parallel Lives

A Financier’s Fall

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Irène Némirovsky recently shot to fame with the posthumous publication of her unfinished novel, Suite Française (published in the UK in 2006). The circumstances of the book’s recovery attracted as much notice as its literary merits. The Jewish author had been arrested in the village where she and her family had taken refuge during the […]

Posted in 340 | Comments Off on A Financier’s Fall

Sexistentialism

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Two events cause Cordell Carmel, a black freelance translator probably in his early or mid-forties, to change every aspect of his life in pursuit of ‘freedom’. The first occurs when he drops in unannounced on Joelle, his girlfriend of eight years, and finds her screaming in bliss as a well-endowed lover, the eponymous Johnny Fry, […]

Posted in 340 | Tagged | Comments Off on Sexistentialism

‘It’s the Culture, Innit?’

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

The form of George Walden’s new book is as arresting as its content. Imagined members of his own family ask ‘Dad’, in the wake of an eight-year-old grandchild’s having been knocked unconscious by some marauding Somali, whether it is ‘time to emigrate’. Replying from vacation in southern France, Walden hurries off a 200-page reflection about […]

Posted in 340 | Comments Off on ‘It’s the Culture, Innit?’

Cradle to Canvas

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Art historians tell us what we are looking at. It’s a tough job but someone has to do it, not many among us having much idea how to read the images we crowd into galleries to see. Hence Simon Schama is welcomed into our living rooms on a Friday night to explain patiently that the […]

Posted in 340 | Comments Off on Cradle to Canvas

Clean In The Open Air

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

It is difficult to isolate the special brilliance of Derek Mahon, because he is so various, and inclusive. Perhaps it lies in his overall tone, which is that of a man disgusted by the world, who nevertheless celebrates the world, by including just about everything that is in the world, tempering his disgust with a […]

Posted in 340 | Comments Off on Clean In The Open Air

On and On and On

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

How to Live Forever – just what is needed right now – is a concise, clear and phenomenally interesting account of the immortality industry. Not that many of us really want to live forever. Who could stomach an eternal existence, with all its concomitant sorrows and inconveniences, the inevitable collapse of all personal ambition, the […]

Posted in 340 | Comments Off on On and On and On

Fairy Footsteps

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

The life of a choreographer, perhaps more than any other artist working in music or theatre, is hard to describe for those outside the world of ballet. All the tiny details that go towards making even the slightest dance have little meaning when described cold, away from the studio or the rehearsal stage. Jerome Robbins, […]

Posted in 340 | Comments Off on Fairy Footsteps

Knowing The Score

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Film music is a neglected topic, but an increasingly important one in a world where there is a bifurcation between the increasingly banal universe of rock music and the creative cul-de-sac that is contemporary classical music. To declare an interest, I would rather listen to a concert of Sergio Leone than the desiccated tunelessness of […]

Posted in 340 | Comments Off on Knowing The Score

Vigour and Pith

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

In his mid-Victorian heyday William Powell Frith (1819–1909), best remembered as the painter of Ramsgate Sands (1852–54), Derby Day (1856–58) and The Railway Station (1860–62), was the most highly priced artist in the world. Even as late as 1875 his period piece Before Dinner in Boswell’s Lodgings, first exhibited in 1868, fetched £4,500 at Christie’s, […]

Posted in 340 | Comments Off on Vigour and Pith

Monks and Monuments

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

From the very first words, ‘I have never lived anywhere commonplace’, the reader is gripped by this frank and intensely aesthetic account of a unique career. Dr John Martin Robinson, known to his countless friends and admirers as Mentmore, is Maltravers Herald Extraordinary, Librarian to the Duke of Norfolk, prolific author, architectural historian, and campaigner […]

Posted in 340 | Comments Off on Monks and Monuments

Sins of the Father

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Having written about Mary Shelley, Robert Graves, Henry James and Ottoline Morrell, Miranda Seymour has now turned her biographical skills onto her own family. Her childhood memoir, the biblically titled In My Father’s House, focuses on her father, George Fitzroy Seymour, and his obsession with their family home, Thrumpton. 

Posted in 340 | Comments Off on Sins of the Father

From Hon To Rebel

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

The Mitford Industry (as the author of this correspondence cheerfully labelled it) has been so prodigiously productive over the years that the mere sight of this enormous new volume takes one aback. Another 764 pages about the joys and miseries of that extraordinary clan? More about Nancy and Debo and Unity and the rest of […]

Posted in 340 | Comments Off on From Hon To Rebel

Mice That Roared

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

The fall of European Communism began and ended with a roaring of mice. Estonia declared ‘sovereignty’ in September 1988 and started a process that brought down the USSR. Slovenia in 1991 did much the same as far as Yugoslavia was concerned, and the whole business came to an end last year when Montenegro declared independence. […]

Posted in 340 | Comments Off on Mice That Roared

The Trials of Nanook

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

This is the story of a documentary film – perhaps the best documentary ever made – and the treacherous truth that lurked behind the celluloid. It is a gripping tale, a kind of minor epic infused with the plangent loneliness of the polar regions, and Melanie McGrath tells it with panache. The film was Nanook […]

Posted in 340 | Comments Off on The Trials of Nanook

The Adventures of a Crafty Convert

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Natalie Zemon Davis is best known for her book The Return of Martin Guerre, a study of identity and dissimulation in the late medieval world which was turned into a successful film. Trickster Travels revisits some of those themes, moving from Islamic Spain to Morocco, Egypt and papal Rome at the beginning of the sixteenth […]

Posted in 340 | Comments Off on The Adventures of a Crafty Convert

The Hope of the Realm

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Rarely can a son have been more longed for than the future Edward VI, born on 12 October 1537 to a father who had been waiting twenty-seven years for a legitimate son and heir. Henry VIII had moved heaven and earth to ensure that his dynasty would continue, renouncing the authority of the Pope, taking […]

Posted in 340 | Comments Off on The Hope of the Realm

Every Man Has His Price

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

To attempt to write a life of Robert Walpole is to climb one of the highest mountains in biography. He dominated English politics for over twenty years, and established a model of government that lasted until 1832 in substance, and beyond that date in spirit. It takes a brave man to undertake the task. Only […]

Posted in 340 | Comments Off on Every Man Has His Price

An Agent Of Tyranny

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Thomas Cromwell has had his apologists. The late Sir Geoffrey Elton hailed him as Henry VIII’s not-so-evil genius, admiring him for his political vision and structural innovations in government. Yet even he could never make Cromwell an appealing figure, and for many he has remained the arch-villain of Tudor England. In this gripping and solidly […]

Posted in 340 | Comments Off on An Agent Of Tyranny

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'Peters was unashamed and evidently unshamable, an impostor who wholly inhabited his fabrications and who indignant… ,
    • ‘At every waking moment Barbara Hepworth was aware of herself as a woman paving the way in a man’s world’ From the… ,
    • The entertaining Howard Jacobson is in conversation with Prof John Mullan at the Queen’s Park Book Festival on Sund… ,
    • 'A modest and retiring man, Thompson spent his life describing apple varieties and recommending the best – Ribston… ,
    • 'Macfarlane is a poet with the instincts of a thriller writer, an autodidact in botany, mycology, geology and palae… ,
    • 'Some scholars attribute Shakespeare’s pre-eminence to four centuries of propaganda and not to the fact that Hamlet… ,
    • RT : We would appreciate any retweets ,