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Category Archives: review

Selassie come home

The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste Canongate, £16.99, pp. 428 . In 1935 the troops of Benito Mussolini’s sinister-clownish Roman Empire II invaded Ethiopia, in large part out of spite for Italy’s embarrassing defeat there 40 years before. Initially largely uncontested – thanks both to emperor Haile Selassie’s desperate faith in international brotherhood and to [...]

You want appease of me?!

The Hitler Years: Triumph 1933-1939 by Frank McDonough Head of Zeus £30 . In the early- to mid-1930s my grandmother (Irish, South African, later Australian) lived for a few years in the east of Germany, as a language assistant/housemistress in a boarding school. Her one recorded comment about Hitler’s accession to power was that he [...]

Islamic cities

Review of Justin Marozzi’s Islamic Empires: Fifteen Cities that Define a Civilization. – For Geographical

Applause for thought?

Midori Goto’s violin recital in Colombo, reviewed. (Along with half the audience.) – For the Sunday Times (SL)

Ducks and cover

Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann Galley Beggar Press, £14.99, pp1020 . Why, I asked some months back, in these pages, do the protagonists in American fiction these days seem so lost? What is it they’re all so het up about? Well… everything. At least according to the narrator of Ducks, Newburyport. Lucy Ellmann’s monster novel [...]

Hit and miss

Chastise: The Dambusters Story 1943 By Max Hastings William Collins £25 . By 1943, after nearly four years of war ‘ameliorated [only] by a thin gruel of successes,’ Britain and her western allies had little to boast in terms of their offensive victories; the lion’s share of the burden was very clearly being shouldered by [...]

The future starts… in Brighton

Review of John Higgs’ The Future Starts Here: Adventures in the Twenty-First Century. – For Geographical

Black samurai

Yasuke: The True Story of an African Samurai by Thomas Lockley and Geoffrey Girard Sphere £20 (hardback) . In late July 1579, an enormous, well-dressed and well-armed African bodyguard stepped off a boat into the southern Japanese port of Kochinotsu. Yasuke – perhaps from ‘Isaac’ in Amharic – had (probably) been abducted as a child [...]

Out and aboutpost

Outpost: a journey to the wild ends of the earth by Dan Richards Canongate £16.99 (hardback) . Imagination fired by a picture of his father outside an Arctic shed, artist and writer Dan Richards sets off in search of places that ‘allow mankind a foothold in otherwise inhospitable terrain’. Icelandic ‘houses of joy’ (not what [...]

Ivory-tower thinking

Review of Future Cities: Architecture and the Imagination, by Paul Dobraszczyk. – For Geographical