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
Russell Tovey, Myanna Buring and Julian Rhind Tutt star in Banished

TV reviewGrace Dent: Jimmy McGovern's new drama sheds light on sex slavery in the colonies

Arts and Entertainment
Australia's Eurovision contestant and former Australian Idol winner Guy Sebastian

Eurovision 2015Australian Idol winner unveiled as representative Down Under

Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
music
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl
filmFirst look at Oscar winner as transgender artist
Arts and Entertainment
Season three of 'House of Cards' will be returning later this month
TV reviewHouse of Cards returns to Netflix
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford will play Rick Deckard once again for the Blade Runner sequel
film review
Arts and Entertainment
The modern Thunderbirds: L-R, Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John in front of their home, the exotic Tracy Island
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
    Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

    Lost without a trace

    But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
    Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

    Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

    Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
    International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
    Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

    Confessions of a planespotter

    With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
    Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

    Russia's gulag museum

    Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
    The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

    The big fresh food con

    Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
    Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

    Virginia Ironside was my landlady

    Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
    Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

    Paris Fashion Week 2015

    The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
    8 best workout DVDs

    8 best workout DVDs

    If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
    Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

    Paul Scholes column

    I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
    Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
    Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

    Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

    The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable