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The Great Escape

Philip Purser, 18 August 1994

The Fortunes of Casanova, and Other Stories 
by Rafael Sabatini, selected by Jack Adrian.
Oxford, 284 pp., £15.95, January 1994, 9780192123190
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... I suspect that there has been a continuous tradition from the great Victorians right through to ...

Never Mainline

Jenny Diski: Keith Richards, 16 December 2010

Life 
by Keith Richards, with James Fox.
Weidenfeld, 564 pp., £20, October 2010, 978 0 297 85439 5
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... I didn’t kick him hard enough’). Occasionally, he’s a little coy. His chauffeur, Patrick, sold his story about the Redlands drug bust to the News of the World, and Keith explains: ‘Didn’t do him any good. As I heard it, he never walked the same again.’ He always goes about with a knife and admits: ‘I have to say I was using guns too ...

Female Relationships

Stephen Bann, 1 July 1982

When things of the spirit come first 
by Simone de Beauvoir, translated by Patrick O’Brian.
Deutsch, 212 pp., £6.95, July 1982, 0 233 97462 8
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Union Street 
by Pat Barker.
Virago, 266 pp., £6.95, May 1982, 9780860682820
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Lady Oracle 
by Margaret Atwood.
Virago, 346 pp., £3.50, June 1982, 0 86068 303 6
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Bodily Harm 
by Margaret Atwood.
Cape, 302 pp., £7.50, June 1982, 0 224 02016 1
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Hearts: A Novel 
by Hilma Wolitzer.
Harvester, 324 pp., £6.95, June 1982, 9780710804754
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Pzyche 
by Amanda Hemingway.
Faber, 236 pp., £7.95, June 1982, 0 571 11875 5
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December Flower 
by Judy Allen.
Duckworth, 176 pp., £7.95, May 1982, 0 7156 1644 7
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... Simone de Beauvoir had to change her original title for When things of the spirit come first, because it had been unexpectedly pre-empted by the Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain. The new title which she picked (Quand prime le spirituel) was a simple variant of the other (Primauté du Spirituel), and the difference has in any case become insignificant in the English translation ...

Aromatic Splinters

John Bayley, 7 September 1995

The Poems of John Dryden: Vol. I, 1649-1681; Vol. II, 1682-1685 
edited by Paul Hammond.
Longman, 551 pp., £75, February 1995, 0 582 49213 0
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... bear an odd resemblance to popular naval romances of our own time, like those of C.S. Forester and Patrick O’Brian; for poetry in the 17th century was expected to cater for all a public’s literary appetites, and usually did so very well, whether it was war in Heaven or bombardment on the high seas. Sylvester’s version of the French poet Du Bartas is ...

Some Flim-Flam with Socks

Adam Kuper: Laurens van der Post, 3 January 2002

Storyteller: The Many Lives of Laurens van der Post 
by J.D.F. Jones.
Murray, 505 pp., £25, September 2001, 0 7195 5580 9
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... particularly prone to re-create their own lives.’ Among recently exposed fantasists, he lists Patrick O’Brian, Bruce Chatwin, Laurie Lee and Jeffrey Archer, all writers for whom a legend as man of action was a large part of their stock in trade. The South African poet Roy Campbell, who was a world-class liar, influenced Van der Post at an ...

11 September 1973

Christopher Hitchens: Crimes against Allende, 11 July 2002

Pinochet in Piccadilly: Britain and Chile’s Hidden History 
by Andy Beckett.
Faber, 280 pp., £15.99, May 2002, 0 571 20241 1
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... Spain. (Some distant booms and cannon shots from this episode may be found in the later novels of Patrick O’Brian.) Is it too fanciful to see a common and self-consciously phlegmatic character as well? Chile is divided almost as surely from its continental neighbours, by the spine of the Andes, as is Britain by the Channel. The outlook is maritime: the ...

Simplicity

Marilyn Butler: What Jane Austen Read, 5 March 1998

Jane Austen: A Life 
by David Nokes.
Fourth Estate, 578 pp., £20, September 1997, 1 85702 419 2
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Jane Austen: A Life 
by Claire Tomalin.
Viking, 341 pp., £20, October 1997, 0 670 86528 1
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... the dying days of the Ancien Régime. Jane’s sailor-brother Captain Frank Austen reports in the Patrick O’Brian style on the high point of his naval career when, off St Domingo on 6 February 1806, his ship Canopus gave a French three-decker ‘a tickling which knocked all his sticks away’. Where there’s insufficient material Nokes returns to ...

Not My Fault

John Lanchester: New Labour’s Terrible Memoirs, 17 July 2008

Speaking for Myself: The Autobiography 
by Cherie Blair.
Little, Brown, 421 pp., £18.99, May 2008, 978 1 4087 0098 3
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Prezza, My Story: Pulling No Punches 
by John Prescott, with Hunter Davies.
Headline, 405 pp., £18.99, May 2008, 978 0 7553 1775 2
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A Question of Honour: Inside New Labour and the True Story of the Cash for Peerages Scandal 
by Michael Levy.
Simon and Schuster, 310 pp., £18.99, May 2008, 978 1 84737 315 1
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... mobility having stalled – a phenomenon which none of the books mentions. In one of his novels, Patrick O’Brian has his character Stephen Maturin say: ‘Have you ever known a village reputation to be wrong?’ Cherie (I’m going to call her that to avoid confusion with the other Blair) has a village reputation which stresses her ambivalent ...

Our Island Story

Stefan Collini: The New DNB, 20 January 2005

The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 
edited by H.C.G. Matthew and Brian Harrison.
Oxford, sixty volumes, £7,500, September 2004, 9780198614111
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... on (though there may continue to be minor alarums, such as the recent spat over the entry for Patrick O’Brian). Nonetheless, a not dissimilar kind of sleep-disturbing responsibility fell on its editor, and the project was fortunate to find the ideal man for the job in the Oxford historian Colin Matthew, who had demonstrated his capacity for the ...

From Progress to Catastrophe

Perry Anderson: The Historical Novel, 28 July 2011

... poured – and still pour – off the presses, from C.S. Forester through Dennis Wheatley to Patrick O’Brian. Over time, this output has yielded a teeming universe that can be glimpsed in such omnibus guides as What Historical Novel Do I Read Next?, with its capsule descriptions of more than 6000 titles, and league tables of the most popular ...

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