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A Vast Masquerade

Deborah Cohen: Dr James Barry, 2 March 2017

Dr James Barry: A Woman ahead of Her Time 
by Michael du Preez and Jeremy Dronfield.
Oneworld, 479 pp., £16.99, August 2016, 978 1 78074 831 3
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... In the category​ of premeditated deceit, imposture is for the real gamblers because it demands the broadest array of accomplices or dupes. If you’re pretending to be someone else, you can’t just fool your spouse or your child or your creditors. You have either to fool all of the people all of the time, or persuade them to collude with you. Bram Stoker, who made a literary career out of the intersection of the far-fetched and the eerily credible, thought that impostors exposed the true magnitude of the public’s gullibility ...

‘Everyone is terribly kind’

Deborah Friedell: Dorothy Thompson at War, 19 January 2023

The Newspaper Axis: Six Press Barons Who Enabled Hitler 
by Kathryn Olmsted.
Yale, 314 pp., £25, April 2022, 978 0 300 25642 0
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Last Call at the Hotel Imperial: The Reporters Who Took on a World at War 
by Deborah Cohen.
William Collins, 427 pp., £10.99, March, 978 0 00 830590 1
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... the conference was fodder for Nazi propaganda: the rest of the world didn’t want Jews either.In Deborah Cohen’s​ group biography of American reporters and pundits who ‘took on a world at war’, Thompson shares space with some of her friends and rivals, particularly John Gunther, H.R. Knickerbocker and Vincent Sheean. ...

The Statistical Gaze

Helen McCarthy: The British Census, 29 June 2017

The Butcher, the Baker, the Candlestick-Maker: The Story of Britain through Its Census, since 1801 
by Roger Hutchinson.
Little, Brown, 352 pp., £20, February 2017, 978 1 4087 0701 2
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... or strange placenames. The vast majority of users of are family historians, who, as Deborah Cohen observes in Family Secrets: Shame and Privacy in Modern Britain (2013), are keen to make an ‘intimate discovery’ that will offer a connection with the dead and at the same time affirm their own ...

Gen Z and Me

Joe Moran, 16 February 2023

... and authentic – seems to me more of a period effect. In her book Family Secrets, the historian Deborah Cohen argues that a ‘modern age of confession’ has been emerging in Britain since the 1930s, as attitudes towards divorce, illegitimacy, homosexuality, infidelity and mental distress have changed. Self-narration is now seen as key to ...

Suitable Heroes

Susan Pedersen: Home from the War, 25 February 2010

Demobbed: Coming Home after the Second World War 
by Alan Allport.
Yale, 265 pp., £20, October 2009, 978 0 300 14043 9
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The Flyer: British Culture and the Royal Air Force, 1939-45 
by Martin Francis.
Oxford, 266 pp., £32, November 2008, 978 0 19 927748 3
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... Home (2001), her study of the British and German treatment of the Great War’s disabled veterans, Deborah Cohen noted that while British state pensions and policies were ungenerous, civilian volunteers stepped into the breach, flocking to donate money and time to the hospitals, rest homes, philanthropies and cultural associations that sought to ease ...

A Pie Every Night

Deborah Friedell: Schizophrenia in the Family, 18 February 2021

Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family 
by Robert Kolker.
Quercus, 377 pp., £25, April 2020, 978 0 385 54376 7
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... on journey, discovery, finding strength in what remains.* Mitchell is fond of quoting Leonard Cohen – ‘there is a crack in everything/that’s how the light gets in’ – and he writes movingly of what his son taught him about creativity and compassion before his death by suicide. Hidden Valley Road is something else: a horror story, expertly ...

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