Cultural Life: Jeffrey Archer, Novelist

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The Independent Culture

I have just read 'Up at the Villa' by Somerset Maugham, which has been re-issued by Penguin. It's set in Florence in the late 1930s and has a wonderful atmospheric feel, reminding us how very stiff upper-lipped the British used to be. It's fun.

I found 'The Ghost' disappointing – dark and depressing, although I enjoyed the book. I wasn't convinced by Pierce Brosnan as a former British prime minister, but then I'm not convinced by Nick Clegg as a Deputy PM. I'm looking forward to seeing the new Robin Hood, who I understand will be played by George Osborne, who intends to take from the rich to give to the poor.

As an angel, I go to the theatre twice a week, so it is naturally difficult to select just one performance, though I must highlight the magnificent production of 'Guys and Dolls' at the Cambridge Arts Theatre, which would have graced the West End. Nicely Nicely was as good a performance as I've seen in that demanding role.

I'm fascinated by the YouTube clip of the Taiwanese talent show contestant Lin Yu Chun singing "I Will Always Love You". It only lasts for three minutes, but I must have seen it half a dozen times already.

Visual Arts
I have enjoyed many exhibitions this year, not least Van Gogh at the Royal Academy, the Henry Moore at the Tate and the Victoria & Albert exhibition at the Queen's Gallery. But the winner for me was unquestionably The Sacred Made Real at the National Gallery last December (featuring 'Dead Christ' by Gregorio Ferandez, below), which bowled me over, partly because I have never seen such an unusual display. I congratulate the curator, Xavier Bray, on mounting the exhibition of the year.

'And Thereby Hangs a Tale', Jeffrey Archer's sixth collection of short stories, is published by Macmillan, £16.99