SPIRITED THINKING SINCE 1888
Allan Massie

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March 05, 2020
Hitler: Downfall 1939-45 By Volker Ullrich Bodley Head, 838pp, £30/$39.95 Putting the war dates in the title is significant. Volker Ullrich, in this second volume of his biography, makes it clear that Hitler’s downfall began not with the failure of “Barbarossa”, the invasion of the Soviet Union, but with the war against Poland in September
December 19, 2019
Prince Albert By AN Wilson Atlantic, 430pp, £30/$35 Publishers love subtitles as a means of catching prospective buyers. So AN Wilson’s delightful biography of the Prince Consort has to have one: The Man Who Saved The Monarchy. It’s valid, because Wilson himself makes the claim, but it’s tiresome too, inviting the question “Really?” The monarchy
November 14, 2019
Attlee and Churchill By Leo McKinstry Atlantic, 737pp, £25/$28 Talk about the descent from the sublime to the ridiculous. From Attlee and Churchill to Corbyn and Johnson, we have come down in the lift. Leo McKinstry’s study of the two most significant prime ministers of the 20th century is a delight to read, but one
October 24, 2019
Madeleine By Euan Cameron Maclehose, 330pp, £17/$22 Euan Cameron was my first publisher and editor more than 40 years ago and has been one of my best friends since then. Now, after a long career, he has written his first novel. I should say I read it first in manuscript form and am indeed quoted
August 08, 2019
Ernest Hemingway was reared by church-going parents as a Congregationalist. His first son was christened in the Church of England. Then soon after his first marriage to Hadley Richardson had ended in divorce and he married his mistress Pauline Pfeiffer, he became a Catholic – supposedly after an intimate health problem was healed through prayer.
June 27, 2019
In 1960 Evelyn Waugh declined a request to review Graham Greene’s new novel A Burnt-Out Case. They were friends but the book saddened him. Its theme was the vexation of a celebrated architect called Querry – “exposed against his wishes as a ‘Catholic’ artist who at the same time cuts himself off from divine grace
June 06, 2019
Jane Haining: A Life of Love and Courage By Mary Miller Birlinn, 240pp, £14.99/$20 We know, hear, think and speak a lot about the horrors of the 1930s and 1940s, about Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union, the Holocaust and the gulags. It is right that we continue to do so. But we pay less
April 25, 2019
Daughters of Chivalry: The Forgotten Children of Edward I By Kelsey Wilson-Lee, Picador, 346pp, £20/$25 To forget something you have to know it first. So, even for those of us with an interest in the Middle Ages and the Plantagenets, describing Edward I’s daughters as “forgotten children” is stretching it. Wilson-Lee’s book is not an
March 21, 2019
Orwell thought that the novel was a Protestant art form. This may seem silly, especially when you consider the number of Catholic novelists, and indeed the number of Catholic, or predominantly Catholic, countries where good novels have been written. Many of Orwell’s views were indeed silly. Nevertheless, they were usually worth considering, if only to
February 21, 2019
The Terror of Existence By Theodore Dalrymple and Kenneth Francis, New English Review Press, 157pp, £15.99/$19.99 It may be assumed that most readers of the Catholic Herald believe in the Christian religion and in both the teaching and authority of the Church. A collection of essays entitled The Terror of Existence may not therefore seem
January 24, 2019
The Trial of the Kaiser By William Schabas OUP, 412pp, £25/$35 “We’re going to hang Jeff Davis from a sour-apple tree,” sang Yankee soldiers. But though the president of the Confederacy was put in leg-irons and imprisoned, he wasn’t put on trial, let alone hanged. Nor was Kaiser Wilhelm II, despite the British election call
January 24, 2019
Anthony Burgess’s Earthly Powers was a great baggy monster of a novel which should perhaps have won the Booker Prize in 1980, but was beaten by a short head by William Golding’s less ambitious Rites of Passage. Burgess was carelessly prolific, but Earthly Powers was his bid to write a masterpiece, and its failure even