Books: Paperbacks

Robert Graves: Life on the Edge by Miranda Seymour (Doubleday, pounds 9.99) And, indeed, over the edge. When his batty muse Laura Riding jumped from an upper story window in Hammersmith ("Goodbye, chaps"), Graves followed her - though he prudently descended to the floor below before taking flight. Long obsessed by this under-regarded love poet, whose works inspired two of her novels, Seymour has produced a thrilling biography. But what an odd mix he was. While brilliant, scholarly and hard-working (he dismissed his 15 novels as "pot-boilers"), Graves neglected his children and was infatuated by a series of young "muses" who infested his Mallorcan redoubt. His bizarre fixation with the "White Goddess" does not bode well for the revival of his poetic reputation, despite Seymour's admirable effort.

Kitchen Venom by Philip Hensher (Penguin, pounds 6.99) This dream-like, vitriolic novel probes the mysterious figures who operate the mechanisms of parliament. At its heart is John, a senior House of Commons clerk, whom Hensher rather overburdens with varied characteristics: he is newly widowed, a closet gay, a hunchback and, eventually, a murderer. John's bickering daughters, bland Francesca and boozy Jane, dally with his colleagues. Over all looms the giant, doomed figure of Margaret Thatcher. A stunningly accomplished work, this roman a clef cost Hensher his job at the House.

A Moment's Liberty: the shorter diary by Virginia Woolf (Pimlico, pounds 15) "How it would interest me if this diary were ever to become a real diary: but then I should have to speak of the soul...". Thank goodness, she never did. In his Introduction, Quentin Bell remarks that Woolf's "sometimes formidable" novels are indifferent to the "humdrum facts of everyday life", while in her diaries she does not refrain from noting "the price of eggs". This miracle of compression (five volumes into one) reveals Woolf dipping her pen in acid. Ulysses reminds her of "a queasy undergraduate scratching his pimples" while Vivien Eliot is "biting, wriggling, raving, scratching, unwholesome, powdered, insane...". By summer 1940, her mood darkens unbearably: "I can't conceive there will be a 27th June 1941". There wasn't for her, poor thing.

The Gun Seller by Hugh Laurie (Mandarin, pounds 5.99) "A work of comic genius" declares Time Out on the cover, but Laurie's first novel is neither comic - unless you split your sides at the description of over-watered whisky as "Vaguely Familiar Grouse" - nor is it remotely a work of genius. In fact, it is a bog-standard, testosterone-fuelled boy's thriller, heavy on the weapons technology ("Hydra 70mm rockets, Hellfire air-to-ground missiles, 50 machine guns. This was a big toy for big boys") but unexpectedly light on sex. Somewhere beneath the shoot-outs, there's a chiffon-like plot about the arms trade. Laurie has the nerve to use a Wilde quotation for one of his chapter headings: "There is no sin except stupidity." Quite.

Children of England by Alison Weir (Pimlico, pounds 8.99) With impressive narrative skill, Alison Weir pilots her readers through the ceaseless tides of intrigue which surged around the four heirs of King Henry VIII. Her mastery of detail brings their tempestuous lives into sharp focus from a distance of four centuries: the arsenic administered to the teenage King Edward VI, not to kill him, but to prolong his death agonies for political reasons; the blindfold figure of Lady Jane Grey groping for the chopping block ("Where is it?") on the scaffold; the last act of Queen Mary, on her death bed, signing a warrant for the burning of two heretics; Princess Elizabeth planting herself in a wet street when en route to prison: "It is better sitting here than in a worse place." This is full-blooded history.

Ash on an Old Man's Sleeve by Francis King (Allison & Busby, pounds 8.99) The ash in the title is more exotic than it sounds. Elliott Baker, a retired civil servant, surprises himself by buying cocaine on the first night of his visit to Cuba and is transformed: "Within me, a machine, long since unused, had come to life at the touch of a switch." Amid the decaying grandeur of Old Havana, he falls for a young policeman called Enaes, but finds it hard to tell whether he receives politeness or lust in response. Funded by Elliott's dollars, they embark on a series of adventures, culminating in a religious spectacle which is said to presage the death of Castro. In the aftermath, Enaes disappears. King's spell-binding tale expertly blends dislocation and strange magic.

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own