SPIRITED THINKING SINCE 1888
Books
June 28, 2022
Jessie Childs
Hoax: The Popish Plot that Never Was by Victor Stater Yale, £20, 336 pages Titus Oates was a flat-faced con man with no credit or standing in the world. By his late twenties he had been kicked out of school, university, the Church of England and – after his conversion to Catholicism in 1677 –
June 28, 2022
Theo Hobson
Liberalism and Its Discontents by Francis Fukuyama Profile Books £16.99, 192 pages The term “liberalism” is a monster that has grown large and confusing tentacles in recent decades. In the US it largely refers to left-of-centre politics, but also inspires libertarianism; in the UK it can refer to capitalist excess and also to progressive individualism
June 28, 2022
Piers Brendon
The Bride: An Illustrated History of Palestine 1850-1948 by Roger Hardy Anthony Eyre, £15, 320 pages This account of a momentous century in the history of the Holy Land takes its title from Palestine itself, a bride who attracted many suitors. A Victorian Archbishop of York, William Thomson, declared starkly that the place of “our
June 28, 2022
A S H Smyth
Uncertain Ground: Citizenship in an Age of Endless, Invisible War by Phil Klay Penguin, $27, 272 pages Leaving the Marine Corps in 2009 to embark on an instantly successful writing career, Phil Klay “envisioned [his] task primarily as making sense of the past”. He discovered quickly that it was not the past. Six years later,
May 27, 2022
Helena Kelly
Godmersham Park  Gill Hornby Cornerstone, £14.99, 416 pages All the sins of empire are being remembered nowadays, heroes judged and found wanting. Yet Jane Austen – whose family had myriad links to the sugar islands, whose brother commanded Britain’s naval forces during the second Anglo-Burmese war, whose cousin was god-daughter to a governor-general of India—has
May 27, 2022
Olenka Hamilton
Don’t Put Yourself on Toast  Freddy Taylor Short Books, £12.99, 192 pages The finality of the hospital bed arriving home and the patient’s sleeping quarters being moved onto the ground floor: “Dad will sleep downstairs now”; the not wanting to ask the dying person all the questions you want to ask them so as not
May 27, 2022
Fr Michael Holman SJ
Being a Jesuit in Renaissance Italy Camilla Russell Harvard University Press, £39.95, 256 pages What makes this book so impressive is the quality of Camilla Russell’s research into the substantial volume of documents produced by Jesuits of the Society’s five Italian provinces during the later 16th and early 17th centuries. This documentation is housed in
May 27, 2022
John Adamson
The Siege of Loyalty House: A Civil War Story Jessie Childs Bodley Head, £25, 336 pages For a place that witnessed the longest and bloodiest siege of the English Civil War, the ruined Basing House in Hampshire is a curiously bland and unsuggestive site. Only the most fertile historical imagination can conjure from its surviving
May 27, 2022
Robin Ward
The Emperors of Byzantium Kevin Lygo Thames & Hudson, £25, 336 pages It hardly needs saying that any English writer who tackles the history of Byzantium does so in the shadow of Edward Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Gibbon is a superlative stylist, and moreover a scholar of almost impeccable accuracy and
May 03, 2022
Laura Perrins
Let’s keep this simple. If you think inviting an author of sexually explicit material that also has a sprinkling of blasphemy to a Catholic school is a good idea, then do not become a governor at that school and do not teach there. If you are a parent who has a child there I suggest
May 02, 2022
Dr Michael Nazir-Ali
Nine Quarters of Jerusalem: A New Biography of the Old City by Matthew Teller  Profile Books, £13.35, 389 pages If this book were a painting, it would have been done in bold strokes and vibrant colours. It evokes the sights, smells and flavours of “Old” Jerusalem effectively, as Matthew Teller integrates the geography of the
May 02, 2022
Paula Byrne
Bad Relations by Cressida Connolly Viking, £14.99, 288 pages Families don’t always bring out the best in people,” says one of the characters towards the end of Cressida Connolly’s novel Bad Relations. Despite its title, this gem is about much more than familial discord through the generations; its themes are memory, loss, grief and redemption.
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