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23 January 1986
Now the war is over: A Social History of Britain 1945-51 
by Paul Addison.
BBC/Cape, 223 pp., £10.95, September 1985, 0 563 20407 9
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England First and Last 
by Anthony Bailey.
Faber, 212 pp., £12.50, October 1985, 0 571 13587 0
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A World Still to Win: The Reconstruction of the Post-War Working Class 
by Trevor Blackwell and Jeremy Seabrook.
Faber, 189 pp., £4.50, October 1985, 0 571 13701 6
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The Issue of War: States, Societies and the Far Eastern Conflict of 1941-1945 
by Christopher Thorne.
Hamish Hamilton, 364 pp., £15, April 1985, 0 241 10239 1
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The Hiroshima Maidens 
by Rodney Barker.
Viking, 240 pp., £9.95, July 1985, 0 670 80609 9
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Faces of Hiroshima: A Report 
by Anne Chisholm.
Cape, 182 pp., £9.95, August 1985, 0 224 02831 6
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End of Empire 
by Brain Lapping.
Granada, 560 pp., £14.95, March 1985, 0 246 11969 1
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Outposts 
by Simon Winchester.
Hodder, 317 pp., £12.95, October 1985, 0 340 33772 9
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... Britain’s real position has been the aura of pathos and self-satisfaction surrounding the nation’s seemingly noble relinquishment of the world’s largest territorial empire. Even now, Brian Lapping, producer of Granada TV’s End of Empire series, whose related book presents, somewhat laboriously, a great deal of intelligent research, cannot forbear to cheer on some occasions, and on others to ...
8 December 1988
To Urania: Selected Poems 1965-1985 
by Joseph Brodsky.
Penguin, 174 pp., £4.99, September 1988, 9780140585803
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... author has brought his backside down on the lid and pressed the locks home. Would a collaborator worth his salt have allowed Brodsky to get away with this, for instance, from ‘Kellomäki’: Flat, lapping swells of the sea starting with B, in curves, resembling bleak thoughts about oneself, ran course onto the empty beach and froze into wrinkles there. The twitching gauze of the hawthorn twigs at ...
16 April 1981
... women. It was a timely chance indeed that had brought the beautiful bruised girl into his corner of the town. That night, the large house on the shore of the lake lay blindly waiting, with silence lapping at its walls. A burglar’s night: clouds in the sky and mists on the winter water. Hashim the moneylender was asleep, the only member of his family to whom sleep had come that night. In another room ...
8 February 1996
Last Orders 
by Graham Swift.
Picador, 295 pp., £15.99, January 1996, 0 330 34559 1
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... my father’s disposition, it is not an accident but a curse.     And Freddie Parr’s father ... is asking Why-whywhy. No repetition of that neat word ‘accident’ can stop the siren in his brain. Waterland And I see them all hanging up before me, like clothes on a rack, all the jobs, tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor, and you have to pick one and then you have to pretend for the rest of your ...

The State with the Prettiest Name

Michael Hofmann: ‘Florida’

24 May 2018
Florida 
by Lauren Groff.
Heinemann, 275 pp., £14.99, June 2018, 978 1 78515 188 0
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... monotonous sublime. Hospitality to all forms of life, it sometimes seems, except one’s own, from sand fleas (‘no-see-ums’) to torpid yellow lizards stretched on the window screens at night, lapping at insects. An acquaintance decided against settling here: the frogs were too loud. If the Almighty had intended for us to live here, surely He would have given us webbed feet. Or gills. Or cold ...

The dead are all around us

Hilary Mantel: Helen Duncan

10 May 2001
Hellish Nell: Last of Britain’s Witches 
by Malcolm Gaskill.
Fourth Estate, 402 pp., £15.99, April 2001, 1 84115 109 2
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... had declined to perform. It would be natural to assume that the spiritualist movement was a branch of the music-hall, a low-class amusement, reactive even: washed in on a tide of irrationality, lapping against the stony convictions of Victorian science. But, as Gaskill describes, the opposite case is true: the rise of spiritualism coincided with the high point of scientific materialism, and the ...
6 October 1983
... substitute for ‘house’, and the duly hysterical audience might forget that the word ‘tantamount’ had made its struggling appearance, incongruous but naturally so, because Sandy’s higher brain centre collects incongruities. Even more than Aunt Edna, Sandy is linguistically a magpie. But he is a magpie in slow motion. Edna attacks, Sandy retreats. He is consequently better qualified than ...

Back from the Underworld

Marina Warner: The Liveliness of the Dead

16 August 2017
The Work of the Dead: A Cultural History of Mortal Remains 
by Thomas Laqueur.
Princeton, 711 pp., £27.95, October 2015, 978 0 691 15778 8
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... were conserved. A pope had expressly given permission for such uses of the dead, in the interests of knowledge; yet in 18th-century England, Hogarth’s horrific scene of an autopsy (where a dog is lapping up the discarded innards), shows that to be used for science was dreadful, fitting punishment of the damned in the here and now, and medical tomb-robbers set so much horror and disgust reverberating ...

On Not Being Sylvia Plath

Colm Tóibín: Thom Gunn on the Move

13 September 2018
Selected Poems 
by Thom Gunn.
Faber, 336 pp., £16.99, July 2017, 978 0 571 32769 0
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... where he would, as was alleged over and over, begin his long decline, undone by sunshine, LSD, queer sex and free verse’. Kleinzahler sought to challenge this idea of the softening of Gunn’s brain in California. ‘The city,’ he wrote, ‘will become his central theme, character and event being played out on its street corners, in its rooms, bars, bathhouses, stairwells, taxis ...

I’m an intelligence

Joanna Biggs: Sylvia Plath at 86

20 December 2018
The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Vol. I: 1940-56 
edited by Peter Steinberg and Karen Kukil.
Faber, 1388 pp., £35, September 2017, 978 0 571 32899 4
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The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Vol. II: 1956-63 
edited by Peter Steinberg and Karen Kukil.
Faber, 1025 pp., £35, September 2018, 978 0 571 33920 4
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... again the luxury of dark. Still the blood and flesh of me were electric and singing quietly. But it ebbed and ebbed and dark and sleep and oblivion came and came, surging, surging, surging inward, lapping and drowning with no-name, no-identity, none at all.’ Later that summer, she also dated Dick’s brother Perry, though Dick had told her he’d like to marry her once he was at Harvard Medical ...

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