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Jenny Turner, 24 October 1991

Gaudi Afternoon 
by Barbara Wilson.
Virago, 172 pp., £4.99, August 1991, 1 85381 264 1
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The players come again 
by Amanda Cross.
Virago, 229 pp., £12.99, August 1991, 1 85381 306 0
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Poetic Justice 
by Amanda Cross.
Virago, 176 pp., £4.99, August 1991, 1 85381 025 8
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Birth Marks 
by Sarah Dunant.
Joseph, 230 pp., £13.99, April 1991, 0 7181 3511 3
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Burn Marks 
by Sara Paretsky.
Virago, 340 pp., £4.99, April 1991, 9781853812798
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Deep Sleep 
by Frances Fyfield.
Heinemann, 198 pp., £13.99, September 1991, 0 434 27426 7
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... magic realist blockbusters, and if you’ve been to Barcelona for a brief holiday recently, Barbara Wilson’s Gaudi Afternoon is just the novel for you. It has a great new heroine, Cassandra Reilly, an Irish-American dyke of fortysomething, who seems to spend her life sorting out people’s problems here and there, translating the odd thing from ...

Blights

Patricia Craig, 23 April 1987

A Darkness in the Eye 
by M.S. Power.
Heinemann, 212 pp., £10.95, April 1987, 0 434 59961 1
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The Stars at Noon 
by Denis Johnson.
Faber, 181 pp., £9.95, March 1987, 0 571 14607 4
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Like Birds in the Wilderness 
by Agnes Owens.
Fourth Estate, 138 pp., £9.95, March 1987, 0 947795 51 0
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Fool’s Sanctuary 
by Jennifer Johnston.
Hamish Hamilton, 132 pp., £8.95, April 1987, 0 241 12035 7
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A Fatal Inversion 
by Barbara Vine (Ruth Rendell).
Viking, 317 pp., £10.95, March 1987, 0 670 80977 2
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Sisters of the Road 
by Barbara Wilson.
Women’s Press, 202 pp., £3.95, March 1987, 0 7043 4073 9
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The price you pay 
by Hannah Wakefield.
Women’s Press, 245 pp., £4.95, March 1987, 0 7043 4072 0
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... under review, in being written by an author susceptible to the glamour in ill-fated associations. Barbara Vine, Ruth Rendell’s alter ego, has written her second enthralling novel: A Fatal Inversion is about the fatal convergence of some more or less unlikeable young people, during the sweltering summer of 1976. The novel opens, in the present, with an ...

Quarrelling

Mary-Kay Wilmers, 29 October 1987

Tears before Bedtime 
by Barbara Skelton.
Hamish Hamilton, 205 pp., £12.95, September 1987, 0 241 12326 7
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In the Pink 
by Caroline Blackwood.
Bloomsbury, 164 pp., £11.95, October 1987, 0 7475 0050 9
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... You must explain to me why Cyril wants Barbara,’ Evelyn Waugh wrote to Ann Fleming in September 1955, a year after Barbara Skelton’s marriage to Cyril Connolly had formally ended. ‘It’s not as though she were rich or a good housekeeper or the mother of his children.’ The following year Edmund Wilson asked Connolly, now two years into his divorce, why he didn’t get someone else ...

According to A.N. Wilson

Patricia Beer, 3 December 1992

Jesus 
by A.N. Wilson.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 269 pp., £15, September 1992, 1 85619 114 1
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... to the point of sprightliness sometimes, but without becoming facetious. Even when, for example, Wilson speaks of Jesus in the same breath and tone as he speaks of the Sheriff of Nottingham and Robin Hood, he is making a serious point about the traditional techniques of rhetoric as used by St Luke, who, in this instance, drops historical names such as ...

Keeping Left

Edmund Dell, 2 October 1980

The Castle Diaries 
by Barbara Castle.
Weidenfeld, 778 pp., £14.95, September 1980, 0 297 77420 4
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... Barbara Castle’s diary of the period 1974-76 shows more about the nature of cabinet government – even though it deals with only one Cabinet – than any previous publication, academic, political or biographical. It is, I think, better than Crossman. It gives a greater impression of immediacy; as a result, it is compulsive reading; and although I have made no checks, and it recounts many events of which I had no direct knowledge, it seems to me to be as accurate as one can expect of so personal a record ...

1966 and all that

Michael Stewart, 20 December 1984

The Castle Diaries. Vol. II: 1964-70 
by Barbara Castle.
Weidenfeld, 848 pp., £20, October 1984, 0 297 78374 2
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... out on 5 January, and those who are still hard at it on 31 December. We are surely fortunate that Barbara Castle – like the late Dick Crossman – is in the second category. And when Mrs Castle keeps a diary, she doesn’t mess about: she really keeps a diary. The indefatigability of her labours was first revealed four years ago, when she published her ...

My Life with Harold Wilson

Peter Jenkins, 20 December 1979

Final Term: The Labour Government 1974-76 
by Harold Wilson.
Weidenfeld/Joseph, 322 pp., £8.95
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... I did not know Harold Wilson until he became leader of the Labour Party in early 1963. The first personal encounter I can remember was when he stopped at a party and engaged me in arcane small talk about the world price of wheat and its consequence for the price mechanism of the Common Agricultural Policy. I was blinded with science ...

Short Cuts

Jeremy Harding: Blair’s comedy turns, 7 September 2006

... When Barbara Castle told Harold Wilson that renegotiating Britain’s membership of Europe would end in ‘a messy middle-of-the-road muddle’, Wilson replied that he felt ‘at his best in a messy middle-of-the-road muddle’. This from Wilson’s official biographer, Philip Ziegler ...

It was sheer heaven

Bee Wilson: Just Being British, 9 May 2019

Exceeding My Brief: Memoirs of a Disobedient Civil Servant 
by Barbara Hosking.
Biteback, 384 pp., £9.99, March 2019, 978 1 78590 462 2
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... Barbara Hosking​ was eating chicken curry in a bungalow in Tanganyika one day in the 1950s when she felt the room shaking. She was lunching with her old schoolfriend Mary, and this was the bungalow they shared. Both women were then working as office managers for a British-owned gold, copper and silver mine in Mpanda ...

Seriously ugly

Gabriele Annan, 11 January 1990

Weep no more 
by Barbara Skelton.
Hamish Hamilton, 166 pp., £14.95, November 1989, 0 241 12200 7
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... This, say Barbara Skelton’s publishers, is the ‘second – and some people will be relieved to hear, final – volume of her riotous autobiography’. On page one of volume one there is a quotation from Harriette Wilson about the meaning of the term ‘gentleman’ – a subject not really very close to Skelton’s heart ...

Complete with spats

A.N. Wilson, 27 May 1993

Dorothy L. Sayers: Her Life and Soul 
by Barbara Reynolds.
Hodder, 398 pp., £25, March 1993, 0 340 58151 4
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... I have been reading again The Mind of the Maker by Dorothy L. Sayers. Barbara Reynolds says that this book – together with her famous series of radio dramas The Man Born to be King – is her greatest work. And Barbara Reynolds should know. She is the goddaughter of Sayers; she is a distinguished Italian scholar and collaborated with Sayers on her translation of The Divine Comedy (a collaboration fascinatingly written up in her book The Passionate Intellect: Dorothy L ...

Mockmen

Stephen Wall, 27 September 1990

Brazzaville Beach 
by William Boyd.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 314 pp., £13.95, September 1990, 1 85619 026 9
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A Bottle in the Smoke 
by A.N. Wilson.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 279 pp., £13.95, September 1990, 1 85619 019 6
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Temples of Delight 
by Barbara Trapido.
Joseph, 318 pp., £13.99, August 1990, 0 7181 3467 2
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... carry conviction. It’s William Boyd’s strongest performance so far. The narrator of A.N. Wilson’s The Bottle in the Smoke is also engaged in retrospect and revaluation, as any hero of a roman fleuve is likely to be. It’s the second novel in a sequence begun with Incline our hearts (1988), which took us through the orphaned Julian Ramsay’s early ...

Well, was he?

A.N. Wilson, 20 June 1996

Bernard Shaw: The Ascent of the Superman 
by Sally Peters.
Yale, 328 pp., £18.95, April 1996, 0 300 06097 1
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... elderly?) fans who clamber from their charabancs for matinée productions of Major Barbara or The Doctor’s Dilemma have more cause to be grateful to GBS than they know. After all, thanks to the existence of public lavatories for women, the fans can settle back for two or three hours of facile paradox and wholly unmemorable epigram, safe in ...

Send them to Eton!

Linda Colley, 19 August 1993

The End of the House of Windsor: Birth of a British Republic 
by Stephen Haseler.
Tauris, 208 pp., £14.95, June 1993, 1 85043 735 1
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The Rise and Fall of the House of Windsor 
by A.N. Wilson.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 211 pp., £16.99, May 1993, 1 85619 354 3
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Royal Throne: The Future of the Monarchy 
by Elizabeth Longford.
Hodder, 189 pp., £16.99, April 1993, 0 340 58587 0
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Diana v. Charles 
by James Whitaker.
Signet, 237 pp., £14.99, May 1993, 0 670 85245 7
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The Tarnished Crown 
by Anthony Holden.
Bantam, 400 pp., £16.99, May 1993, 0 593 02472 9
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Inheritance: A Psychological History of the Royal Family 
by Dennis Friedman.
Sidgwick, 212 pp., £14.99, April 1993, 0 283 06124 3
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Raine and Johnnie: The Spencers and the Scandal of Althorp 
by Angela Levin.
Weidenfeld, 297 pp., £17.99, July 1993, 0 297 81325 0
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... may not). Even worse, as far as the present Queen is concerned, most Britons don’t care. As A.N. Wilson cruelly remarks, ‘it is possible that the Queen is the only person in the British Isles who is interested in the British Commonwealth. Most of her subjects have some difficulty in remembering what, exactly, it is.’ Britons are therefore conspicuously ...

Tam, Dick and Harold

Ian Aitken, 26 October 1989

Dick Crossman: A Portrait 
by Tam Dalyell.
Weidenfeld, 253 pp., £14.95, September 1989, 0 297 79670 4
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... it is a great deal deader in this segment of the population than in any other. That the Attlee and Wilson governments had such a heavy complement of Oxbridge intellectuals owed as much to the fact that deference still existed at the grass roots of the Labour Party in the Thirties and Forties as it did to the willingness of graduates to put themselves ...

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