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Haig-bashing

Michael Howard, 25 April 1991

Haig’s Command: A Reassessment 
by Denis Winter.
Viking, 362 pp., £18.99, February 1991, 0 670 80255 7
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... him. Their lukewarm defence was that he was probably the best of a bad bunch. With this judgment Denis Winter emphatically does not agree, and in Haig’s Command he launches the most devastating attack on Haig’s reputation since the publication of Lloyd George’s self-serving memoirs in the Thirties. Much of it, admittedly, is old hat. Haig’s ...

Sweetie Pies

Jenny Diski, 23 May 1996

Below the Parapet: The Biography of Denis Thatcher 
by Carol Thatcher.
HarperCollins, 303 pp., £16.99, April 1996, 0 00 255605 7
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... Denis Thatcher is entirely inventable – as John Wells understood: he comes in a flat pack with easy-to-follow instructions, all the components familiar general shapes, all parts from stock, no odd angles, no imagination required. When they came up with the idea for Ikea, they used Denis Thatcher as the prototype ...

Holy Terrors

Penelope Fitzgerald, 4 December 1986

‘Elizabeth’: The Author of ‘Elizabeth and her German Garden’ 
by Karen Usborne.
Bodley Head, 341 pp., £15, October 1986, 0 370 30887 5
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Alison Uttley: The Life of a Country Child 
by Denis Judd.
Joseph, 264 pp., £15.95, October 1986, 0 7181 2449 9
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Richmal Crompton: The Woman behind William 
by Mary Cadogan.
Allen and Unwin, 169 pp., £12.95, October 1986, 0 04 928054 6
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... as Alice Taylor, at Castle Top on the edge of the Peak District, ‘a snow baby’, in the deep winter of 1884, ‘the cattle shut in their houses’ and the candles alight in the warm kitchen to welcome her. These memories became compulsive, as did the need to preserve them. In Ambush of Young Days and The Country Child, both for adult readers, she brought ...

I shall be read

Denis Feeney: Ovid’s Revenge, 17 August 2006

Ovid: The Poems of Exile: ‘Tristia’ and the ‘Black Sea Letters’ 
translated by Peter Green.
California, 451 pp., £12.95, March 2005, 0 520 24260 2
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Ovid: Epistulae ex Ponto, Book I 
translated and edited by Jan Felix Gaertner.
Oxford, 606 pp., £90, October 2005, 0 19 927721 4
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... and conventionally grotesque language with which Ovid evokes a desolate landscape of unrelieved winter. Jan Felix Gaertner, in the introduction to his commentary on the first book of the second collection from exile, provides a full battery of sobering information to show that Ovid knew what he was talking about: the average temperature in January is below ...

Le Grand Jacques

R.W. Johnson, 9 October 1986

Jacques Doriot: Du Communisme au Fascisme 
by Jean-Paul Brunet.
Balland, Paris, 563 pp., August 1986, 2 7158 0561 6
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... altar boy. Jacques, a tall, painfully thin boy, left school early to become a factory worker in St Denis, the most proletarian suburb of Paris. This perfectly ordinary career was changed for ever by his call-up in 1917. He fought heroically at the front – an experience which scarred his life – and was then retained in the Army after the war, to be sent ...

Old Grove and New Grovers

Denis Arnold, 16 October 1980

George Grove 
by Percy Young.
Macmillan, 344 pp., £12.50, April 1980, 0 333 19602 3
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... on and on. The sixth edition of Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians will come out next winter, all 20 volumes, 18,000 pages, 22,500 articles, 7,500 cross-references, over three thousand illustrations, over two thousand five hundred music-type examples – if the dust-cover of Percy Young’s biography of its founder is to be believed. The New ...

Gentlemen Travellers

Denis Donoghue, 18 December 1986

Between the Woods and the Water 
by Patrick Leigh Fermor et al.
Murray, 248 pp., £13.95, October 1986, 0 7195 4264 2
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Coasting 
by Jonathan Raban.
Collins, 301 pp., £10.95, September 1986, 0 00 272119 8
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The Grand Tour 
by Hunter Davies.
Hamish Hamilton, 224 pp., £14.95, September 1986, 0 241 11907 3
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... and ‘moored Fritz, her miniature dachshund, a neurotic dandy in his lime-green knitted winter coat, to the table leg with a round turn and two half-hitches, and bribed him with scraps to stop him warbling like an off-key flute’. But Fritz would not be welcome in the dining-room now. People were scoffing chicken liver pâté with walnuts and ...

Plot 6, Row C, Grave 15

Malcolm Gaskill: Death of an Airman, 8 November 2018

... were silent. Many pilots were superstitious, and planes often carried talismans and trinkets – Denis Winter, in The First of the Few, calls this ‘mystical ballast’. By the spring of 1917, the tone of Fernald’s letters had altered: they were no longer jocular – he had been fond of quips and wordplay – but sombre and introspective. ‘We just ...

Seeing it all

Peter Clarke, 12 October 1989

The Time of My life 
by Denis Healey.
Joseph, 512 pp., £17.95, October 1989, 0 7181 3114 2
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... When they asked Haldane what sort of an army he had in mind, his reply was: A Hegelian army.’ Denis Healey calls his six years at the Ministry of Defence in the Sixties ‘the most exhilarating period of my life’ and ‘the most rewarding of my political career’. These are, of course, relative judgments, reflecting the barrenness of Labour politics in ...

At Tate Britain

Peter Campbell: Thomas Girtin, 22 August 2002

... drew and painted on the spot to use as the basis for studio work done (along with teaching) in the winter. He exhibited at the Royal Academy and had a number of loyal patrons. Among his pupils were women of means and influence. The major work of the last part of his life was a panorama of London – painted in oil and covering nearly two thousand square ...

In Le Havre

Andrew Saint: The rebuilding of France, 6 February 2003

... have gone, but the sea is still just about the only way to get there from London. On a moonlit winter evening, as the shore approaches, the town lays itself out beneath an electric halo, the Church of Saint-Joseph lifting its lighthouse-like campanile majestically behind. The ferry barges across the seafront for its dock with categoric ...

Resistance Days

Derek Mahon, 25 April 2002

... migrate in ‘the run-up to Christmas’. Here I sit amidst the hubbub of the rue de Seine while a winter fly snores at a window-pane. Old existentialists, old beats, old punks sat here of old; some dedicated drunks still sing in the marketplace, and out the back there’s an old guy who knew Jack Kerouac. Spring in January now, of course: no doubt the daffs ...
... no problem for the reporters and television crews who blocked the bridge in the pale sunshine of a winter’s afternoon. This was 25 January 1981, and the launch of the manifesto that came to be known as the Limehouse Declaration. When Roy Jenkins, Shirley Williams, David Owen and I met together that morning, we were clear in our intention: in breaking the ...

Making sense

Denis Donoghue, 4 October 1984

A Wave 
by John Ashbery.
Carcanet, 89 pp., £4.95, August 1984, 9780856355479
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Secret Narratives 
by Andrew Motion.
Salamander, 46 pp., £6, March 1983, 0 907540 29 5
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Liberty Tree 
by Tom Paulin.
Faber, 78 pp., £4, June 1983, 0 05 711302 5
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111 Poems 
by Christopher Middleton.
Carcanet, 185 pp., £5.95, April 1983, 0 85635 457 0
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New and Selected Poems 
by James Michie.
Chatto, 64 pp., £3.95, September 1983, 0 7011 2723 6
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By the Fisheries 
by Jeremy Reed.
Cape, 79 pp., £4, March 1984, 0 224 02154 0
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Voyages 
by George Mackay Brown.
Chatto, 48 pp., £3.95, September 1983, 0 7011 2736 8
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... in several voices. Some of them are charming album-verses about fairly mild things; some are Audenish improbabilities which somehow come through. The only tedious poem is an elegy on Dylan Thomas. A few poems, including ‘Double Blind’ and ‘Discoverer’, are wonderfully true, and ‘The Nostalgist’ is everyone’s story who has reached a certain ...

Erasures

Colm Tóibín: The Great Irish Famine, 30 July 1998

... sufficiently to earn the ordinary day’s wages,’ the chairman of the Board of Works wrote. The winter of 1846-47 was exceptionally cold, and a great majority of Irish labourers and potato farmers did not normally work much in the winter months, and no one owned heavy clothes. (Since there was nothing to do in ...

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