When people attain a certain level of fame, their notable acts have been so exhaustively described and analysed that what we crave to know about them is the banal and everyday: what they might have in common with the rest of humanity, rather than what sets them apart. This is true of the Queen, for example. Much excitement is created by disclosures about what she has on her breakfast table, and the more normal her tastes, the greater the interest. This is even truer of Margaret Thatcher, not least because we already know as much as we need to about her political battles and legacy: not only were there volumes of her memoirs, but all her senior colleagues published their own accounts.
Follow Literary Review on Twitter
This 'jaunty narrative raises fundamental questions about the role of popular history. Should this just be a matter of telling tales, as the general public often seems to think?'
@DrLRoach weighs up Charles Spencer's account of the White Ship Disaster.
'Amis clearly belongs to the do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do school of pedagogy. More or less everything he says is demonstrably contradicted by elements of his own work, be they here or elsewhere.'
'The bar is set high at the outset, and readers are primed to wonder if Mikhail can make his case.'
Does Alan Mikhail's new life of the Sultan Selim I really overturn 'shibboleths that have held sway for a millennium'? Caroline Finkel investigates.