New light on The Leopard

Lampedusa, Steven Price, London: Picador, 328 pages, £14.99 A review of a novel about the writing of a novel may seem too derivative – but when the novel being novelised is Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s mordant 1958 masterpiece The Leopard much could, and should, be forgiven. Luckily, nothing needs to be forgiven in Steven Price’s… Continue reading

Solar power

King of the World: The Life of Louis XIV Philip Mansel, London: Allen Lane, 2019, 568 pages, £30 British historian Philip Mansel is fascinated by splendour and eclipse – the firework ascent of cities and courts, their fizzling out and falling to earth. After the Bonapartes, Louis XVIII, and the entire Levant, now it is… Continue reading

New Country Life and Quadrant reviews…

The 30th October issue of Country Life carries my review of Edward Parnell’s Ghostland – British eeriness seen through a deeply personal prism. Perfect reading for the season (or any other time). The November issue of Australia’s renowned Quadrant carries my jumbo review of Philip Mansel’s brilliant Louis XIV biography, King of the World. Really… Continue reading

Beauty seen, beauty sought – Beauty by Stefan Sagmeister and Jessica Walsh

BEAUTY SEEN, BEAUTY SOUGHT Beauty, Stefan Sagmeister & Jessica Walsh, Phaidon: London, 2018, hb, 280pps “A thing of beauty is a joy forever” Keats effused in Endymion – “Its loveliness increases; it will never pass into nothingness.” His 1818 poem about the shepherd so handsome he was beloved by immortals was poorly received, and Keats… Continue reading

The Matter of Manners – In Pursuit of Civility by Keith Thomas

THE MATTER OF MANNERS In Pursuit of Civility – Manners and Civilisation in Early Modern England Keith Thomas, Yale: New Haven and London, hb., 457 pages Among the Bodleian Library’s celebrated Douce Collection of arcana,  incunabula and later works is an instructional manuscript of circa 1350, which contains the first-known written English expression of what… Continue reading

Enlightenments – Little Demon by Michael Wilding

ENLIGHTENMENTS Little Demon, Michael Wilding, Melbourne: Arcadia, 2018, 260 pages, $29.95 Captain Cook named Cape Byron for ‘Foul-Weather Jack’ Byron, the adventuring Vice-Admiral who sailed past the easternmost point of the Southern Land in 1764, part of that endless English outpouring that shaped today’s topography. The weatherbeaten Enlightenment navigator, for whom beaches were only important… Continue reading