The Week in Books

March 6, 2008

The Ballad of Dorothy Wordsworth by Frances Wilson, specialist in Romantic literature and biography, formerly of the University of Reading. Faber, £18.99, ISBN 9780571230471

"Perhaps exhausted by the struggle to contain her wildness under a mantle of good behaviour, by the end Dorothy had become the mad woman in the attic ... Her degeneration is almost unbearably sad: 'Her pleasures as the years dragged by were no longer watching the birds, but waiting for the cuckoo clock to strike the hour, which made her whoop with delight, and splashing water about in a kitchen bowl.'"

Virginia Rounding, The Guardian

Diamonds, Gold and War: The Making of South Africa by Martin Meredith, former research associate at St Antony's College, Oxford. Simon and Schuster, £25.00, ISBN 9780743286183

"This is history told as a rattling good yarn ... It is praised on the dust jacket by Wilbur Smith, who, one suspects, is some way from being a good judge of what makes a good history book. We all know the joke about the three types of sociology: Marxist, structural-functional and airport. This is airport history."

R. W. Johnson, Times Literary Supplement

The Roads to Modernity: The British, French and American Enlightenments by Gertrude Himmelfarb, professor emeritus, Graduate School, City University of New York. Introduction by Gordon Brown. Vintage, £8.00, ISBN 9781400077229

"So what is a Labour Prime Minister doing writing an introduction to an apology for such an American form of compassionate conservatism? Brown is being disingenuous in claiming that Himmelfarb shows us what it still means to be British, given that she is really saying that what it once meant to be British now means being American. But Brown has another aim - to remind us that at the heart of Britishness lies a form of Scottishness. He uses Himmelfarb to continue his campaign to resurrect Adam Smith as the godfather of his own version of benevolent capitalism."

David Runciman, The Sunday Times

The Wildest Province: SOE in the Land of the Eagle by Roderick Bailey, historian at the Imperial War Museum. Jonathan Cape, £25.00, ISBN 9780224079167

"The men on the ground fought with extraordinary bravery. They were sons of Seven Pillars of Wisdom - and, at times, this reads like a story of scores of Lawrences let loose on Albania. It is history now. But in Afghanistan, Iraq and who knows where else, the same mixture of bravery and political error, the same grappling with intractable people and problems, continues."

Denis MacShane, Financial Times

Why Milton Matters: A New Preface to His Writings by Joseph Wittreich, distinguished professor of English, City University of New York. Palgrave, £37.99, ISBN 9781403972293

"The book is full of Milton references in modern literature and pop culture. Some of these, unfootnoted, invite scepticism: 'Paradise Lost was the text the Hells Angels packed away in their hip pockets.' I want proof."

Tobias Gregory, London Review of Books.

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments