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I dream of islands every night

Emma Hogan: Letters from Tove, 24 September 2020

Letters from Tove 
by Tove Jansson, translated by Sarah Death.
Sort of Books, 496 pp., £12.99, October, 978 1 908745 84 2
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... 160 of these letters has now been published for the first time and translated into English by Sarah Death. Covering the period between 1932 and 1988, they trace Jansson’s life more intimately than any autobiography.She was born in 1914 to two artists from the Swedish-speaking minority in Finland. Her mother, Signe Hammarsten, known as ...

Why do it, Sarah?

Blake Morrison: ‘The Glass Kingdom’, 18 March 2021

The Glass Kingdom 
by Lawrence Osborne.
Hogarth, 304 pp., £16.99, August 2020, 978 1 78109 078 7
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... for the indigenous culture, he or (just as often) she runs into serious trouble, implicated in a death for which, eventually, a debt must be paid. The setting is luxurious, the lifestyle hedonistic, the climate oppressively hot. Prodigious amounts of alcohol are consumed. As events accelerate towards a violent finale, the reader is kept guessing. How severe ...

Crimewatch UK

John Upton: The Tabloids, the Judges and the Mob, 21 September 2000

... and unthinking, vengeful behaviour on the ground. Two cases stand out: those of Myra Hindley and Sarah Payne. In both public fury has prevailed over fairness, the interests of the bereaved over those of the community as a whole. In 1966, Myra Hindley and Ian Brady were convicted of the murder of two children whom they had abducted and tortured. They received ...


Sarah Lawson, 12 November 1987

... Equity, the old owner never knew He’d end up playing Yorick, A role still more mature than Lear. Death does his cameo walk-on ...

Why the richest woman in Britain changed her will 26 times

Mark Kishlansky: The Duchess of Marlborough, 14 November 2002

The Favourite: Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough 
by Ophelia Field.
Hodder, 575 pp., £20, June 2002, 9780340768075
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... The memoirs of Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough, are among the more remarkable documents of the 18th century. Begun by 1704, they were written, rewritten and ghostwritten over three decades before publication in 1742. An Account of the Conduct of the Dowager Duchess of Marlborough, from Her First Coming to Court to the Year 1710 was a none too subtle attempt at vindicating her brief period as favourite to Queen Anne, justifying her personal and political roles, refuting slanders against her and her warrior husband, and defaming her enemies, both dead and alive ...

Period Pain

Patricia Beer, 9 June 1994

by Stella Tillyard.
Chatto, 462 pp., £20, April 1994, 0 7011 5933 2
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... contain, apart from what one might expect in the way of letters and journals, everything from death certificates to poems. There is much to enjoy too, as there would be in any lively historical novel, past or present. But the eulogy pronounced by the great Simon Schama, author of Citizens, calls for comment: ‘A dazzling achievement,’ he writes, ‘an ...

‘A Being full of Witching’

Charles Nicholl: The ‘poor half-harlot’ of Hazlitt’s affections, 18 May 2000

... In early September 1878, an old woman named Sarah Tomkins lay dying at her lodgings on Penton Place, an undistinguished terrace in the South London district of Newington. The street was poor but it clung to respectability: one might call it ‘shabby genteel’. Once it had led down to the popular Surrey Gardens, but now the gardens had closed and a rash of new housing was spreading across the area ...

Adieu, madame

Terry Castle: Sarah Bernhardt, 4 November 2010

SarahThe Life of Sarah Bernhardt 
by Robert Gottlieb.
Yale, 233 pp., £18.99, October 2010, 978 0 300 14127 6
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... Sarah Bernhardt’s strangest gift – or so it seems a hundred years after the fact – was her ability to make the most improbable people go cuckoo over her. An otherwise mopey young D.H. Lawrence, for example. In 1908, having seen her perform one of her signature roles – Marguerite, the doomed courtesan in La Dame aux camélias – Lawrence sounds like a decadent schoolgirl on heat: ‘Oh, to see her, and to hear her, a wild creature, a gazelle with a beautiful panther’s fascination and fury, sobbing and sighing like a deer sobs, wounded to death, and all the time with the sheen of silk, the glitter of diamonds … She represents the primeval passions of woman, and she is fascinating to an extraordinary degree ...

Death to Potatoes!

James Buchan: Sarah Palin in Tehran, 17 March 2011

The People Reloaded: The Green Movement and the Struggle for Iran’s Future 
edited by Nader Hashemi and Danny Postel.
Melville House, 439 pp., £12.99, March 2011, 978 1 935554 38 7
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The Ayatollahs’ Democracy: An Iranian Challenge 
by Hooman Majd.
Allen Lane, 282 pp., £20, January 2011, 978 1 84614 319 9
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... and street Persian, is the common man. Majd, who loves this sort of comparison, likens him to Sarah Palin. Ahmadinejad represents to a fault the prejudices and superstitions of the ordinary Iranian, anti-semitic in an unsystematic fashion, bitter and sentimental about the war, and, as Majd reminds us, a little anti-clerical. Iranian anti-clericalism did ...

Things that are worth naming

Linda Colley, 21 November 1991

A Passion for Government: The Life of Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough 
by Frances Harris.
Oxford, 421 pp., £25, September 1991, 0 19 820224 5
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... future hopes. But the effect is to carry the eye to the very centre of the work, to the figure of Sarah Marlborough. Clad in luxurious silk, with her feet apart and her arms relaxed, she sits with her back to a massive pillar. She and the artist had quarrelled, and this, legend has it, is why he portrayed her staring sourly out of the canvas, fixing anyone ...

The Family That Slays Together

Deborah Friedell: Lorrie Moore, 19 November 2009

A Gate at the Stairs 
by Lorrie Moore.
Faber, 322 pp., £16.99, October 2009, 978 0 571 19530 5
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... of these subjects are overpowered by the story Moore tells of parents who are responsible for the death of their child. ‘What further horror could match this?’ asks the chorus in Medea. In Moore’s earlier fictions, the death of a child is an imaginative no man’s land: no stories can come out of it or after it. In ...

Bodily Speaking

Sarah Rigby: Zoë Heller, 29 July 1999

Everything You Know 
by Zoë Heller.
Viking, 198 pp., £9.99, June 1999, 0 670 88557 6
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... months before. ‘I thought Sadie had done exceptionally well to be so efficient and laconic in death,’ he says. ‘But now, as I trawled through the pathetic items in the envelope, I felt the familiar prickings of parental disappointment. She had, it seemed, succumbed to the sentimentalities of leave-taking, after all. And Christ, isn’t life hard ...


Rosemary Ashton, 17 October 1985

Troubled Lives: John and Sarah Austin 
by Lotte Hamburger and Joseph Hamburger.
Toronto, 288 pp., £19.50, May 1985, 0 8020 2521 8
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... for him to marry her. If he had accepted, she might well have found herself in something akin to Sarah Austin’s position as emotional and financial prop to a miserable, selfish hypochondriac. As it was, her relationship with the very different G.H. Lewes, fostered by Spencer himself in his eagerness to retreat, blossomed within the year, and by 1854 Marian ...

Baby Brothers

Dinah Birch, 18 April 1996

Love, Again 
by Doris Lessing.
HarperCollins, 345 pp., £15.99, April 1996, 0 00 223936 1
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Playing the Game 
by Doris Lessing, illustrated by Charlie Adlard.
HarperCollins, 64 pp., £6.99, December 1995, 0 586 21689 8
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... irrepressible love and paralysing grief – but it is still more about the analysis of feeling. Sarah Durham (‘a good sensible name for a sensible woman’) is a theatrical producer, 65 years old. Calm, reasonable and successful, she imagines that the storms of adolescence and middle age are behind her. A voice from the past disturbs this cultivated ...

Speaking British

Thomas Jones, 30 March 2000

The Third Woman 
by William Cash.
Little, Brown, 318 pp., £14.99, February 2000, 0 316 85405 0
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Greene on Capri: A Memoir 
by Shirley Hazzard.
Virago, 149 pp., £12.99, January 2000, 1 86049 799 3
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... concerns the aftermath of a relationship between the narrator, Maurice Bendrix, a novelist, and Sarah Miles, the wife of a civil servant, who live on opposite sides of Clapham Common. The framing narrative is set in 1946, when Bendrix and Sarah haven’t seen each other for 18 months. They had met in the summer of ...

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