Peter Hall’s Diaries edited by John Goodwin

‘I’ve been re-reading Peter Hall’s Diaries. Suddenly they start to make sense. They’re a catalogue of misery.’ Richard Eyre It would be easy to dislike the late Peter Hall. Indeed, many people did. After all, he set up the Royal Shakespeare Company in his twenties, was knighted while running the National Theatre in his forties.…

Summer Lightning by P.G. Wodehouse

Autumn’s here, but don’t despair. There’s this: ‘It was that gracious hour of a summer afternoon, midway between luncheon and tea, when Nature seems to unbutton its waistcoat and put its feet up.’ Yes, the first paragraph sets the tone. You either warm to it or mentally curl up in a peevish ball. If the…

A Very English Scandal by John Preston

…’Then we have been forced to listen to the pitiful whining of Mr. Norma St. John Scott – a scrounger, parasite, pervert…. a worm…! A self-confessed player of the pink oboe; a man – or woman – who by his – or her – own admission chews pillows..!’ So said Peter Cook, playing a judge,…

The Hive by Gill Hornby

In 1714’s The Rape of the Lock, Alexander Pope wrote about a small (albeit creepy) incident – the appropriation of a piece of someone’s hair without permission – which caused a rift between two families. In his mock-heroic poem, this disagreement becomes a battle worthy of the gods: ‘Then cease, Bright Nymph! to mourn thy…

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

The house in Amsterdam is full of secrets. It is 1686 and 18-year old Nella Oortman has arrived from the country on the doorstep of the imposing building on Herengracht. Armed only with a caged parakeet and some naive ideas about what it will mean to be a wife, she is beginning her new life…

Ian Botham: The Power And The Glory by Simon Wilde

‘Well, he’s better looking than Tom Selleck.’ So said 1980s schlock movie producer Menachem Golan about Ian Botham, after looking him up and down. Golan was, among things, the man behind Superman IV. There was little he could teach Botham, who had already lived parts I-III in real life. By the time Golan paid his left-handed…

Five Rivers Met On A Wooded Plain by Barney Norris

‘Only connect…’ Those two words are the point from which all flows in E.M. Forster’s masterly Howard’s End but they apply equally to Five Rivers Met On A Wooded Plain, the first novel by an annoyingly talented pup and playwright called Barney Norris. Set (rather refreshingly, way away from the usual boundaries of literary land)…