Along the Smugglers’ Road

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Matthieu Aikins’s first book at times reads like a work of fiction, and is all the richer for that. His account of the brutal 7,000-kilometre journey taken through a hostile landscape by him and Omar, an Afghan refugee, is punctuated with feelings of hope and despair. Can the travellers go on? Will they complete their […]

Inside Xinjiang’s Prison State

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

In 2017, the behaviour of the Chinese state in Xinjiang took a lurch towards inhumanity with a crackdown on ‘extremism’, as the authorities chose to describe it. It led to the imprisonment of probably over one million Uyghurs and other Muslims and to the construction of a complex network of internment camps and forced-labour institutions. […]

She Should Have Gone to Cambridge

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Rosie Johnston could have made rather a lot of money by writing a sensational account of her prison experiences and the events that led up to her being sent down. Instead she insisted on writing, for very much less money, this scrupulously sensation-free book, which she modestly hopes ‘might be of help to other female […]

Let Them Eat Gold

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

It may be a truth, universally acknowledged, that riches do not necessarily bring happiness; but one nevertheless feels they might alleviate some of the more irritating burdens. Anthony Sampson will almost certainly have hit the jackpot with The Midas Touch. Sampson is one of the most distinguished of this country’s post-war journalists. His early work […]

The Government Inspector

Posted on by David Gelber

This book is Gorbachev’s attempt to explain two phenomena; the economic restructuring of the USSR and the pressing need for a drastic reassessment in superpower relations. It is divided into two parts of exactly equal length and is written with a vitality and enthusiasm now taken as characteristic of the Genera l Secretary. Unfortunately the […]

Ruc-Up

Posted on by Tom Fleming

In my family the blame for the troubles in Northern Ireland has always been pinned squarely on Great Aunt Mary. She was a dreadful, interfering woman who, having driven her husband into an early grave, set about disrupting the domestic tranquility of her relations. Wherever she went she would act as a catalyst for long […]

Chinese Whispers

Posted on by Tom Fleming

This book is sub-titled ‘The first impartial account by an insider, still living in China, of the background to events in Tiananmen Square.’ It is in fact a political thesis – and really not a new one – outlining the long struggle between hardliners and ‘reformers’ in the Chinese Communist Party. The author and translator […]

But Is It Fragrant?

Posted on by Tom Fleming

There’s a kettle the cover. Not your furred up old Swan though. This kettle is the hip kettle, the in kettle, the de rigeur, shibbolethic, totemic kettle. The kettle that you have seen in those shops that sell objets like matte black torches, Swiss Army knives and condom holsters for Filofaxes. The kettle is stainless […]

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Gilded Billies

Posted on by David Gelber

The author of this book is a touch nervous. He accompanies the review copy with a letter which tells of his Doubts About Reviewers. ‘I am quite accustomed to reviews of books about the rich (especially my last one) which consist mainly of vituperative attacks on them as a class…’ William Davis is already the […]

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Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

Posted on by David Gelber

Books that are well-informed, well-written and well-timed are rare commodities. It is disappointing that Michael Simmons’s sketch of East Germany, or rather the German Democratic Republic (GDR) – depending on which side of the fence (perhaps ‘wall’ in this case) you come down on – is mainly well-timed. Originally conceived to coincide with the fortieth […]

His Word Is As Good As His Bond

Posted on by David Gelber

With the reverberations of October’s stock market crash still ringing in their ears, analysts are saying that only the expert intervention of the government can transform the slump from gentle landscaping into a proper earthquake on the scale of Black Monday, November 1987. The worst run on the exchanges since the Thirties, it recalled the […]

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First Lessons in Crowd Control

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Robert Reid follows his acclaimed Land of Lost Content, about the Luddite revolt of 1812, with this fascinating account of Peterloo – a cavalry charge into a crowd in St Peter’s Field, Manchester, in 1819. This was an act of ‘the most repressive regime in modern British history’. Peterloo was followed by the notorious Six […]

Girton Spread Thin

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

No one denies that the universities are having a rough time. No one can deny, either, that having to listen to oily homilies from Kenneth Baker and Robert Jackson must be more than body and soul and brain can bear. (John MacGregor, the first member of the staff of New Society to make it to […]

All Thatcher’s Fault

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

‘Shut your gob, Jason you little blighter, or I’ll shove your Big Mac down your bleedin’ throat. Kids these days. Who’d have ’em? Jason get them french fries off Kylie’s ’ead. Give over or I’ll belt you. Hang on. We’ve got an audience. Who’s that stuck-up bag starin’ at us over there? Something wrong with […]

Of Course There is Honey Still for Tea

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Stewart Lamont has written an intelligent analysis of the present state of relationships between church and state across the world, homing in with a plea for disestablishment of the Church of England. As befits someone described in his blurb ‘as Scotland’s leading writer and broadcaster on religious affairs’, Lamont’s sympathies are with church rather than […]

Tricky Saint Dicky

Posted on by David Gelber

In 1988, NBC TV’s John Chancellor asked Richard Nixon how history would remember him. ‘History will treat me fairly. Historians probably won’t because most historians are on the left.’ Sadly, Stephen Ambrose does not include this illuminating exchange in the final volume of his three-part Nixon biography, but I hope that its subject is suitably […]

First Lessons in Crowd Control

Posted on by David Gelber

Robert Reid follows his acclaimed Land of Lost Content, about the Luddite revolt of 1812, with this fascinating account of Peterloo – a cavalry charge into a crowd in St Peter’s Field, Manchester, in 1819. This was an act of ‘the most repressive regime in modern British history’. Peterloo was followed by the notorious Six […]

Getting to Know the Sticks & Stones

Posted on by David Gelber

Max Hastings has written what for me is a marvellous book. Enthusiasm is at a discount in our colourless age. One warms to Hastings because he is an unashamed enthusiast. He may not dispel the hostility of those who consider shooters and hunters as latter-day barbarians; but at least they may catch a glimmer of […]

He Nearly Apologises

Posted on by David Gelber

In 1992 Lord Hailsham, one of our oldest elder statesmen, had a spiritual crisis. He became disillusioned with the state of the world around him. Since he was eighty-five at the time this was something of an achievement; some of us reach the same point when more than fifty years younger. It was not merely […]

Feds under the Bed

Posted on by David Gelber

There is a long history of FBI meddling in the affairs of public intellectuals in America, and it’s not a happy one. State surveillance of writers and political activists (such as Martin Luther King Jr) became an obsession under the bizarre and dictatorial leadership of J Edgar Hoover, who served as director from its inception […]

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