LGBT+: Diversity in Manga @ Japan House

Downstairs at the Japan House in High Street Kensington are the exhibition spaces. The staircase takes you down into a central atrium. On one side is the entrance to the medium-sized lecture theatre-cum cinema, where they hold events, talks and screen movies. Opposite this is the entrance to the fairly large exhibition room, currently devoted […]

Kolymsky Heights by Lionel Davidson (1994)

‘Many tricky dicks walk the trail.’ (Jean-Baptiste Porteur, p.88) I saw this book in several second-hand bookshops before I picked it up for a pound imagining, from the stylish cover, that Davidson was one of the new young generation of thriller writers. How wrong I was. Davidson was born in 1922 and published his first […]

Gulag: A History by Anne Applebaum (2003)

I went back to my apartment from which no policeman could evict me now. There was no one home, and finally I was able to weep freely. To weep for my husband, who perished in the cellars of the Lubyanka, when he was thirty-seven years old, at the height of his powers and talent; for […]

The Biographer’s Moustache by Kingsley Amis (1995)

‘She told me she saw something in one of the papers about somebody called something Scott-Thompson writing something about JRP Fane…’ (p.96) Not particularly successful, forty-something literary journalist, Gordon Scott-Thompson, pitches the idea of writing a ‘critical biography’ of 68-year-old, very posh and very out-of-date novelist Jimmie Fane, to his reluctant publisher. There follows a series […]

The Royal Academy summer exhibition 2016

The pleasures of the annual summer exhibition at the Royal Academy are: The sheer scale – 1,240 exhibits this year. The variety – it is not a show of One Major Artist, where you’re meant to pay close attention to the artistic development of a Matisse or a Georgia O’Keeffe – it’s such an enormous […]

Our Kind of Traitor by John le Carré (2010)

‘Well, fuck, said Hector happily. ‘Fuck indeed,’ Perry agreed, bemused. (p.88) Plot Perry and Gail Thirty-something Oxford tutor, Peregrine ‘Perry’ Makepeace, and his girlfriend, the beautiful, rising star barrister, Gail (immediately reminiscent of the beautiful, rising star journalist, Penelope, in The Mission Song), are on holiday in Antigua. Gail is a stunner (‘Men fell in […]

The Mission Song by John le Carré (2006)

I don’t like le Carré’s later fiction. The Secret Pilgrim (1990) set the tone, a series of tales told by a self-important retirement-age security bore which revealed le Carré’s most famous character, George Smiley, to be a pompous ass. The series of novels from The Night Manager onwards seem to me: to almost exclusively feature repellently posh, upper-class, public-school-educated […]

Dark Star by Alan Furst (1991)

That was the nature of the intelligence landscape as he understood it: in a world of perpetual night, a thousand signals flickered in the darkness, some would change the world, others were meaningless, or even dangerous. (p.67) Alan Furst’s second novel covers similar territory as the first, territory he has subsequently made his own in […]

Absolute Friends John le Carré (2004)

‘Everyone in Berlin knows Sasha.’ (p.58) For three quarters of its length this is the best, the most compelling, gripping and psychologically rewarding le Carré novel for years: for excitement and plausibility I would recommend this one over all its predecessors as far back as A Perfect Spy. It is a return to the full-blown […]

Single & Single by John le Carré (1999)

Public school hero Just like the narrators of The Secret Pilgrim and Our Game and the protagonist of The Tailor of Panama, the central figure in Single & Single, Oliver Single, attended a number of private schools and speaks and thinks – and is emotionally stunted – accordingly. He was bullied and harassed by the home tutor his parents hired […]