SPIRITED THINKING SINCE 1888
Charlie Hegarty

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March 09, 2017
Patient H.M. by Luke Dittrich, Chatto and Windus, £18.99 Luke Dittrich’s first book is impressively well written. The grandson of a famous American neurosurgeon, William Beecher Scoville, he has woven family recollections of his grandfather, the story of Scoville’s most famous patient, Henry Molaison, and reflections on the craze for psychosurgery (that is, lobotomies) into
January 12, 2017
Avalanche: a Love Story by Julia Leigh, Faber and Faber, £12.99 This affecting memoir could only be written in the modern age. Indeed, you could call it a parable on the sorrows of contemporary women. The author explains that she first visited an IVF clinic in February 2008, aged 38, with Paul, whom she had
January 05, 2017
A Day at a Time by Mary Kenny, New Island Books, £13.99 Mary Kenny is a veteran journalist who describes her career as the “modest success of remaining in work for over 50 years”. She is also an author and, of course, a popular Catholic Herald columnist. In these “Thoughts and Reflections through the Seasons”,
December 22, 2016
Negroland: A Memoir by Margo Jefferson, Granta, £12.99 In this beautifully evoked narrative of her childhood and youth in Chicago in the 1950s and 60s, with its potent mixture of irony and wistfulness, Margo Jefferson shows what it means to have grown up as an African American. Actually, Jefferson repudiates that phrase as “strictly for
December 08, 2016
Pier Giorgio Frassati by Cristina Siccardi, Ignatius Press, £15 In this biography of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati (1901-1925), the author brings new insights into events in his life, quoting revealingly from the first biography in 1928 by a Salesian, Don Antonio Cojazzi, as well as from the memoirs of Luciana Frassati, Pier Giorgio’s sister. Why
November 24, 2016
The Way We Die Now by Seamus O’Mahoney, Head of Zeus, £14.99 Medical advances since the war have given Western populations unprecedented levels of health, cures for disease and longer life-spans. This is a good thing. But inevitably such advances bring with them new ethical questions for doctors and patients alike, such as when is
November 17, 2016
A History of Britain in 21 Women by Jenni Murray, Oneworld, £16.99 Celebrated for presenting Woman’s Hour for nearly 30 years, Jenni Murray has compiled a list of the 21 women who she thinks have made a significant contribution to the country. As befits a keen feminist, they include several suffragette types, such as Mary
October 13, 2016
Caught in the Revolution by Helen Rappaport, Hutchinson, £25 Helen Rappaport, author of many studies on Russian history, has subtitled her book Petrograd 1917. By confining herself to one city and a single year, she turns the start of the chaos and violence of the Russian Revolution into a dramatic and absorbing narrative. Deliberately avoiding
September 15, 2016
A Smell of Burning by Colin Grant, Jonathan Cape, £16.99. Colin Grant, a doctor who works as a radio producer for the BBC, was prompted to write this book, subtitled “The Story of Epilepsy”, because his brother Christopher was an epileptic. Alongside the history of epilepsy, Grant tells the tragic story of Christopher, who died,
September 08, 2016
Eggs or Anarchy by William Sitwell, Simon and Schuster, £20 I once asked a Francophile friend what he thought of Napoleon. He replied, “He was an administrator of genius.” The same could be said of Lord Woolton, invited by Neville Chamberlain to become Minister of Food in 1940, when he was 58. His task was
August 18, 2016
How beating a class enemy became a favourite pastime in the China of Chairman Mao
August 18, 2016
The Cultural Revolution by Frank Dikötter, Bloomsbury, £25 The Cultural Revolution in China exploded on Western consciousness in the summer of 1966. It seemed almost incomprehensible that an ancient civilisation which revered tradition, respect for elders and scholarship, and which had accumulated thousands of artefacts of great antiquity, should suddenly set about its own cultural
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