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Ravish Me

Daniel Soar: Sebastian Faulks, 5 November 2009

A Week in December 
by Sebastian Faulks.
Hutchinson, 518 pp., £18.99, September 2009, 978 0 09 179445 3
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... less than secure. The train driver is befriended, and admired, by an impoverished and sympathetic barrister, who takes her out on dates – Chinese food, bottles of wine neither of them can really afford – and expresses an interest in her intellectual life. She should read more, he says, and waste less time with her computer. She has books, and wants to ...

Verie Sillie People

Keith Thomas: Bacon’s Lives, 7 February 2013

The Oxford Francis Bacon Vol. I: Early Writings 1584-96 
edited by Alan Stewart, with Harriet Knight.
Oxford, 1066 pp., £200, September 2012, 978 0 19 818313 6
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... him with a seat in Parliament. But he was short of money and had expensive tastes. He became a barrister at Gray’s Inn, rising rapidly to become a highly successful advocate and legal adviser to the crown. He attached himself to Robert Devereux, second Earl of Essex, the dashing royal favourite, who championed his cause and urged the queen to make him ...
Jeremy Thorpe: A Secret Life 
by Lewis Chester, Magnus Linklater and David May.
Fontana, 371 pp., £1.50
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... and of Scott, who come alive on the page in a way that Mr Thorpe does not. If Mr Thorpe has had a secret life, it was presumably a social and political one, and it is not to be found here. His dazzling success in Society, and the difficulties he met in leading the Liberal Party, are dealt with accurately but cursorily, and without any hint of access to ...

Mauve Monkeys

William Fiennes, 18 September 1997

Wilde’s Last Stand: Decadence, Conspiracy and the First World War 
by Philip Hoare.
Duckworth, 250 pp., £16.95, July 1997, 0 7156 2737 6
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... some ‘little brick dairies’) and had a go at amateur farming. He flew planes. He trained as a barrister. Trying to cross the Solent to the Isle of Wight in his steam yacht Violet, Billing ended up somewhere near Le Havre. In photographs this dark genius has the leanness and meticulous parting of T.S. Eliot, the milky eyes of Enoch Powell, and a monocle ...


Mary Hawthorne, 23 June 1994

The Seduction of Morality 
by Tom Murphy.
Little, Brown, 224 pp., £15.99, June 1994, 0 316 91059 7
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A Goat’s Song 
by Dermot Healy.
Harvill, 408 pp., £14.99, April 1994, 0 00 271049 8
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... proposal of marriage, when Vera declines it, is followed by a punch in the face. Vera takes up secret residence in the closed-down hotel, alone with the confusion of her thoughts. ‘All her life she had wanted to do something in her hometown without being judged.’ The idea occurs to her, as it must, only when she realises its impossibility. The small ...

Journos de nos jours

Anthony Howard, 8 March 1990

Alan Moorehead 
by Tom Pocock.
Bodley Head, 311 pp., £16.95, February 1990, 0 370 31261 9
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Loyalties: A Son’s Memoir 
by Carl Bernstein.
Macmillan, 254 pp., £15.95, January 1990, 0 333 52135 8
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by Brian Inglis.
Chatto, 298 pp., £15.95, January 1990, 0 7011 3390 2
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... probably draw the line. The difficulty, of course, is that both Albert and Sylvia Bernstein had a secret that they desperately wanted to preserve. Some time between 1940 and 1942 – even their son cannot be specific about dates – they had joined the Communist Party: and, having refused to admit to that before a Congressional Investigating Committee (one of ...

Momentous Conjuncture

Geoffrey Best: Dracula in Churchill’s toyshop, 18 March 2004

Prof: The Life of Frederick Lindemann 
by Adrian Fort.
Cape, 374 pp., £18.99, October 2003, 0 224 06317 0
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... most in this respect was that, although himself rather Germanic, he disliked Germany, and made no secret of the fact. Much more obviously un-Oxonian was his education. It became a permanent annoyance to him, especially after securing a fellowship and a fine set of rooms at Christ Church, that he couldn’t sport one of the few approved old school ties. His ...

The Great Dissembler

James Wood: Thomas More’s Bad Character, 16 April 1998

The Life of Thomas More 
by Peter Ackroyd.
Chatto, 435 pp., £20, March 1998, 1 85619 711 5
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... his head to forces beyond his control. Most absurdly, because of Robert Bolt’s screenplay, this barrister of Catholic repression is widely envisioned as modernity’s diapason: the clear, strong note of individual conscience, sounding against the authoritarian intolerance of the Early Modern state. Thomas More died in defence of an authoritarian intolerance ...

New Man from Nowhere

James Davidson: Cicero, 4 February 2016

by Robert Harris.
Hutchinson, 299 pp., £20, October 2015, 978 0 09 175210 1
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... at a time when speechmaking still mattered. A large number of these speeches were those of a barrister defending his clients: Pro Cluentio in defence of a man accused of murdering his stepfather, Pro Roscio in defence of a man accused of murdering his father, Pro Caelio in defence of a man wrongly accused of the attempted murder of his ex-mistress, Pro ...

The Manners of a Hog

Christopher Tayler: Buchan’s Banter, 20 February 2020

Beyond the Thirty-Nine Steps: A Life of John Buchan 
by Ursula Buchan.
Bloomsbury, 479 pp., £25, April 2019, 978 1 4088 7081 5
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... upstairs neighbour, Scudder, reveals himself to be a freelance spy from Kentucky and shares the secret for which he’ll soon be murdered. It seems that there’s a conspiracy ‘to get Russia and Germany at loggerheads’, and that ‘the Jew’ is behind it:‘Do you wonder?’ he cried. ‘For three hundred years they have been persecuted, and this is ...

Each of us is a snowball

Susannah Clapp: Squares are best, 22 October 2020

Square Haunting 
by Francesca Wade.
Faber, 422 pp., £20, January, 978 0 571 33065 2
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... residents. She considered writing about Helena Normanton, the first woman to practise as a barrister in England and the first married woman to have a passport in her maiden name. Lorna Garman nearly supplemented the many romances in the book: when her lover Laurie Lee went to fight in the Spanish Civil War, she sent him pound notes soaked in Chanel ...

‘I am the destiny’

Eqbal Ahmad: Pakistani politics, 18 June 1998

The Terrorist Prince: Life and Death of Murtaza Bhutto 
by Raja Anwar, translated by Khalid Hasan.
Verso, 254 pp., £16, January 1997, 1 85984 886 9
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Memoirs of a Bystander: A Life in Diplomacy 
by Iqbal Akhund.
Oxford, 500 pp., £15.99, June 1998, 0 19 577736 0
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Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Pakistan 
by Rafi Raza.
Oxford, 420 pp., £15.95, April 1998, 0 19 577697 6
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... its first nuclear device, her father, then prime minister, responded ‘immediately’. He held secret talks with China, made a deal of sorts with Libya, struck an agreement with France to purchase a plutonium-reprocessing plant and hired Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan, a metallurgist then employed in Holland and now regarded, with Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, as a parent of ...

Born to Lying

Theo Tait: Le Carré, 3 December 2015

John le Carré: The Biography 
by Adam Sisman.
Bloomsbury, 652 pp., £25, October 2015, 978 1 4088 2792 5
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... he was jailed for the first time in 1934, for fraud, Ronnie befriended not only the prosecuting barrister but the prison governor. His family lived the life of ‘millionaire paupers’, inhabiting lavish houses in the Home Counties, holidaying in St Moritz and keeping racehorses with personalised livery – for as long as the creditors were kept at ...

Dev and Dan

Tom Dunne, 21 April 1988

The Hereditary Bondsman: Daniel O’Connell, 1775-1829 
by Oliver MacDonagh..
Weidenfeld, 328 pp., £16.95, January 1988, 0 297 79221 0
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Eamon de Valera 
by Owen Dudley Edwards.
University of Wales Press, 161 pp., £19.95, November 1987, 0 7083 0986 0
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Nationalism and Popular Protest in Ireland 
edited by C.H.E. Philpin.
Cambridge, 466 pp., £27.50, November 1987, 0 521 26816 8
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Northern Ireland: Soldiers talking, 1969 to Today 
by Max Arthur.
Sidgwick, 271 pp., £13.95, October 1987, 0 283 99375 8
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War as a Way of Life: A Belfast Diary 
by John Conroy.
Heinemann, 218 pp., £12.95, February 1988, 0 434 14217 4
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... with his subject is balanced by what is often an astringent critique – O’Connell’s work as a barrister and the imprint of this on his politics is a case in point, as are his Catholicism, personal and political, and his relationship (not least in financial terms) with his family. MacDonagh’s title, The Hereditary Bondsman, comes from O’Connell’s ...

Blood Relations

J.I.M. Stewart, 1 December 1983

Diversity and Depth in Fiction: Selected Critical Writings of Angus Wilson 
edited by Kerry McSweeny.
Secker, 303 pp., £15, August 1983, 0 436 57610 4
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... view, I entirely accept. It has been my experience that most middle-class families have some “secret” of this kind in their midst.’ Ivy Compton-Burnett had published ten novels before the 33-year-old Angus Wilson sat down one Sunday and wrote ‘Raspberry Jam’ – to which he then added seven other short stories at successive weekends. In ...

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