Sad history of Hackney Downs school

By Michael Stern, June 1, 2012

Poignantly, on May 1 this year, nearly 20 old boys of Hackney Downs school, or Grocers, as it was known, had a reunion lunch in an Edgware restaurant. They had enrolled in August 1947, which, as Geoffrey Alderman points out in his book, Hackney Downs 1976-1995, The Life and Death of a School (The Clove Club, £14), was one of its “Golden Years”.


Jerusalem: the graphic novel

By Keith Kahn-Harris, June 1, 2012

French-Canadian cartoonist Guy Delisle draws himself with minimal detail: dots for eyes and barely any mouth. As an anonymous everyman he tries to see what others don’t in some of the most remarkable places in the world.

After his graphic books reporting from Pyongyang, Shenzhen and Burma, he has turned his attention to Jerusalem.


Susan Sontag's diaries reveal her private pain

By Rebecca Wallersteiner, June 1, 2012

As Consciousness is Harnessed to Flesh, the second of three volumes of Susan Sontag’s journals, edited by her son, David Rieff, begins where the first ended — in the mid 1960s.


Viennese Comedy puts Freud on the couch

By Jonathan Beckman, May 25, 2012

In Joseph Skibell’s new novel, Dr Jakob Sammelsohn, an impoverished ophthalmologist in Vienna with a non-existent sex life, falls in love with a woman he sees at the theatre. In the play’s interval, he engineers a conversation with her companion, who, it transpires, is Sigmund Freud.


Chasidic woman's flight from New York Orthodox life

By Miriam Shaviv, May 25, 2012

Unorthodox is an account of Deborah Feldman’s Chasidic upbringing in New York, her unhappiness at what she sees as her oppression, and ultimately her escape into secular society. Inevitably, the Satmar community in which Feldman grew up has responded aggressively, accusing her of mistakes, omissions and outright lies.


Children's books: butterflies, cakes and Horrid Henry's Jubilee moment

By Angela Kiverstein, May 22, 2012

Butterflies represent the souls of the dead, according to the ancient Greeks. And lepidopterous lore becomes a fascination for 12-year-old Becky in Butterfly Summer, by Anne-Marie Conway (Usborne, £5.99). Becky spends her days by the lake in the village butterfly garden, where she makes a new friend, Rosa May.


Uneven chick lit romance but Oprah Winfrey liked it

By David Herman, May 22, 2012

On Page 273, one character picks up a book, “a romance novel, one of seven she has brought. She consumes one every two days.” The Grief of Others is itself one part romance novel, two parts chick lit. It includes three affairs, two unwanted pregnancies, one runaway child, numerous dead parents and siblings, a miscarriage and a brief moment of soft-core incest. All in 370 pages.


Alice Herz-Sommer: the pianist who's a true survivor

By Amos Witztum, May 22, 2012

Alice Herz-Sommer is 108 years old. She is a true survivor of the 20th century.


Italian menu you can get your teeth into

By Simon Round, May 10, 2012

There is more madness and beauty in David Winner's new exploration of his adopted city than there is food.


On the shelf: Bleak aftermath

May 10, 2012

Savage Continent is Keith Lowe's revealing and comprehensive account of the ravaged state of Europe in the wake of the Second World War. Lowe shows how the "peace", for many, was anything but. The continent was blighted by starvation, poverty, violence and lawlessness. The book paints a vivid picture of the rocky road that eventually led to stability.