In the latest issue:

The American Virus

Eliot Weinberger

The Home Life of Inspector Maigret

John Lanchester

Story: ‘Have a Seat in the Big Black Chair’

Diane Williams

The Last Whale

Colin Burrow

In Beijing

Long Ling

Princess Margaret and Lady Anne

Rosemary Hill

At the Movies: ‘Arkansas’

Michael Wood

Ruin it your own way

Susan Pedersen

At Home

Jane Miller

The Ottoman Conundrum

Helen Pfeifer

Poem: ‘Muntjac’

Blake Morrison

Piketty’s Revolution

Geoff Mann

Short Cuts: In Tripoli

Jérôme Tubiana

Coetzee Makes a Leap

Christopher Tayler

At Auckland Castle: Francisco de Zurbarán

Nicola Jennings

Drain the Swamps

Steven Shapin

Diary: In the Isolation Room

Nicholas Spice

The Grange BoyBlake Morrison

Horse-chestnuts thudded to the lawn each autumn.
Their spiked husks were like medieval clubs,
Porcupines, unexploded shells. But if
You waited long enough they gave themselves up –
Brown pups, a cow opening its sad eye,
The shine of the dining-room table.

We were famous for horse-chestnuts. Boys
From the milltown would ring at our door asking
Could they gather conkers and I’d to tell them
Only from the ground – no stick-throwing.
I watched through the casement as they wandered
In shadow, trousers crammed like mint-jars.

One morning they began without asking.
Plain as pikestaffs, their hurled sticks carried down
Whole branches, the air filled like a pillowfight
With rebellion and leaves. I was alone.
I had not father’s booming voice. They were free
To trample through our peaceable estate.

Afterwards, matching father in a show
Of indignation (Bloody vandals and thugs)
I imagined their home ground – the flagged backyards,
The forbidden alleys and passages
Winding up and out on purple moor,
The rooftops like a bar of toblerone.

It is June now, the chestnut blossoming
Like confetti. He summoned me today
To the billiard-room – that incident
With an apprentice. I’ve told you before.
A son in your father’s firm, you’re looked to
For an example. I don’t know what to do.

So I sit at my rosewood desk, lines fading
Across the parkland. I’ve been getting pamphlets
In a plain brown envelope and feel like
A traitor. Dark strangers have been seen by
The wicker-gate. Mother keeps to her bed.
English, we hoard our secrets to the end.

Send Letters To:

The Editor
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

Please include name, address, and a telephone number.

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Read More

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.

Newsletter Preferences