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Consider the Golden Mole

Katherine Rundell, 18 April 2019

... the odd squid: but in only one mammal, the golden mole. Some species are black, some metallic silver or tawny yellow, but under different lights and from different angles, their fur shifts through turquoise, navy, purple, gold. Moles, then, with a tendency towards sky colours. The golden mole is not, in fact, a mole. It’s more closely related to the ...

Consider the Hare

Katherine Rundell, 2 July 2020

... they become: of the 32 species, some, such as the Burmese hare, are reddish-grey shading to silver; others, like the Tibetan Woolly, the colour of just-cut straw. The Indian Hare wears a patch of black at the back of its neck like a hair ribbon. The mountain hares in the north of Britain turn stark white in winter – real white, which only lasts a ...

At the British Library

Katherine Rundell: Harry Potter, 14 December 2017

... and then attempting to heal a cook who’d been condemned to death for stealing the king’s silver, on the understanding that if the man survived his life would be spared. The cook died gruesomely seven hours later. Scattered alongside incunabula and illuminated texts are images by Jim Kay, the artist behind the new illustrated Potter books, whose work ...

No More Baubles

Tom Johnson: Post-Plague Consumption, 22 September 2022

Household Goods and Good Households in Late Medieval London: Consumption and Domesticity after the Plague 
by Katherine L. French.
Pennsylvania, 314 pp., £52, October 2021, 978 0 8122 5305 4
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... were ordered to wear appropriate clothes. Their wives should wear cheap shoes. No more silk or silver cloth. No more embroidery or enamelling. No more gold brooches, silver clasps, chains or bracelets. No more precious stones, belts or knives. No more baubles. England’s first sumptuary law is often cited as evidence ...

Ferrets can be gods

Katherine Rundell, 11 August 2016

Gabriel-Ernest and Other Tales 
by Saki and Quentin Blake.
Alma Classics, 156 pp., £6.99, October 2015, 978 1 84749 592 1
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... from the Somme. It’s a world, like that of Oscar Wilde or P.G. Wodehouse, of silk curtains and silver tea sets, though Saki’s is populated not only with tyrannical aunts and obtuse majors, but also with tigers and woodland gods. In ‘Sredni Vashtar’, a boy worships a ferret as a god; the worship gives the ferret a power of its own, and it eats the ...

A Nice Place on the Riviera

Allen Curnow, 22 February 2001

... Lord has delivered you into our hands.’ 2 ‘No personal God or any such nonsense’ – Katherine Mansfield Beauchamp to Murry, spouse, from Villa Isola Bella, Menton, 18 October – being much the age Blaise Pascal was (three centuries back) to whom God personally did appear that day ‘from about ten thirty p.m. till past midnight’. Sick ...

Father-Daughter Problems

Michael Dobson: Shakespeare’s Bad Daughters, 8 May 2008

The Lodger: Shakespeare in Silver Street 
by Charles Nicholl.
Allen Lane, 378 pp., £20, November 2007, 978 0 7139 9890 0
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... Henry V (1599). The last of these demonstrates, furthermore, particularly in the scene of Princess Katherine’s English lesson, III.iv, that Shakespeare had a reasonable grasp of French. Just as important for the story Nicholl tells in The Lodger, it also demonstrates that Shakespeare had a reasonable grasp of the sorry position occupied by women in struggles ...

Punch-up at the Poetry Reading

Joanna Kavenna: Dorothy Porter’s verse novel, 7 May 1998

The Monkey's Mask 
by Dorothy Porter.
Serpent’s Tail, 264 pp., £9.99, October 1997, 1 85242 549 0
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... for feminist and lesbian reworking. Sara Paretsky, Val McDermid, Elizabeth George, Mary Wings and Katherine Forrest have re-created the detective as a single or Sapphic thirty-something woman, brandishing a handgun. The shape-shifting and self-suppression which most women, and especially lesbian women, perform daily have become nifty accessories of crime ...


Elisa Segrave: The bride wore fur, 30 November 1995

... of beautiful material. Apparently they were part of my grandmother’s two wedding-dresses. Katherine, who’d worked at the house for fifty years, had, by the time of my grandmother’s death, become her closest companion. (The colonel had died in 1955.) But even Katherine wasn’t certain which material belonged to ...

Baring his teeth

Peter Clarke, 25 June 1992

The Macmillans: The Story of a Dynasty 
by Richard Davenport-Hines.
Heinemann, 370 pp., £18.50, April 1992, 0 434 17502 1
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... did not care what toil he endured for their sakes.’ This was just as well, for he and his wife Katherine had no fewer than 12 children, though four of their daughters died tragically young in an epidemic which finally induced the family to forsake Arran. Their two younger sons deservedly get chapters to themselves in The Macmillans. Mr Daniel and Mr ...


C.H. Sisson, 18 April 1985

Diaries: 1923-1925 
by Siegfried Sassoon, edited by Rupert Hart-Davis.
Faber, 320 pp., £12.95, March 1985, 0 571 13322 3
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... is not for delicate writing’, can occasionally irrupt with invincible common sense: ‘he puts Katherine Mansfield above Virginia Woolf, a “too well-educated woman writing her best” ’ – which at least provides food for thought; he thinks Galsworthy ‘a gentlemanly ass’; he asserts that copulation ‘has no connection with “passion” in the ...

Renée kept a crocodile

Lucie Elven: ‘Portrait of an Unknown Lady’, 1 June 2023

Portrait of an Unknown Lady 
by María Gainza, translated by Thomas Bunstead.
Harvill Secker, 188 pp., £14.99, March 2022, 978 1 78730 324 9
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... person, she says: ‘You spent the first half of your life rich, the second poor … Hence the Silver Spoon syndrome that has always marked you out: the indestructible sensation that the money will come from somewhere.’ The writer Mariana Enriquez has described Gainza as belonging to ‘the elite of the elite’, attributing the ‘ruined ...
Genius in Disguise: Harold Ross of the ‘New Yorker’ 
by Thomas Kunkel.
Random House, 497 pp., $25, March 1995, 0 679 41837 7
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... even in Aspen, his home town, Ross was regarded as an oddball. Born in 1892, the son of an Irish silver-miner, he left school as early as he could. His aim was to become a newsman – he had worked on the local paper during his school holidays and caught the bug. His parents disapproved but even so they seem to have prepared him well. His mother, a frontier ...

It leads to everything

Patricia Fara: Heat and Force, 23 September 2021

Einstein’s Fridge: The Science of Fire, Ice and the Universe 
by Paul Sen.
William Collins, 305 pp., £20, April, 978 0 00 826279 2
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... room, and lengthy speculations about the relationship between James Clerk Maxwell and his wife, Katherine, with whom he occasionally collaborated.Sen​ insists that to make decisions about electric cars, wind farms and nuclear energy requires a grasp of the scientific fundamentals. But why should a familiarity with Carnot cycles, Maxwell’s demon or ...

In the Workshop

Tom Paulin: Shakespeare’s Sonnets, 22 January 1998

The Art of Shakespeare's Sonnets 
by Helen Vendler.
Harvard, 672 pp., £23.50, December 1997, 0 674 63712 7
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Shakespeare's Sonnets 
edited by Katherine Duncan-Jones.
Arden, 503 pp., £7.99, September 1997, 1 903436 57 5
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... the modernised one like Gielgud or Prince Charles. The same or very similar modernised texts in Katherine Duncan-Jones’s scholarly and accessible new edition seem perfectly presentable on their own, but in Vendler are often destabilised by their immediate adjacency to the Quarto texts. Duncan-Jones prints ‘And burn the long-lived Phoenix in her ...

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