Arts and Entertainment David Neilson and Julie Hesmondhalgh in Monday's episode

Actress Julie Hesmondhalgh was only meant to work on Coronation Street for two months. Her character was intended as little more than a gimmick to help the Manchester-based soap opera compete in the ratings battle with then-dominant EastEnders. Fifteen years later, her character’s story has finally come to a close, and with it, one of soap’s most enduring and touching romances: that of oddball Roy and his kind-hearted wife, Hayley.

Christopher Hitchens: A proud iconoclast who liked the fight

Christopher Hitchens made his name by making enemies.

Emmy The Great and Tim Wheeler, Bush Hall, London (3/5)

The Christmas album still stutters on in mainstream America for the likes of Beyonce (who recorded one with Destiny’s Child) and Justin Bieber.

An atheist billboard greets passers-by in Palisades Park, Santa Monica

Santa Monica's angry atheists declare a real war on Christmas

Unbelievers' billboards edge out nativity scenes after council allocates space in lottery draw

Red Hot Chili Peppers, O2, London
Chic, Forum, London

The Eagles of funk metal haven't noticed that their sound – and their puerile jokes – stopped being entertaining years ago

Diary: The reality is that Ali's bagged another top gig

In that ever widening Venn Diagram intersect where reality TV and occupational therapy meet, we meet Alastair Campbell – yet again. Fresh from "teaching politics" at Jamie Oliver's pretend school, Ali has signed up for First Love, a Sky Arts series in which celebs are coached to perform publicly on the favourite instrument from their youth. This is not what the smuttier among you may think (we leave the sub-Carry On muck to David Cameron, later in this column; Ali's status as top-ranked onanist will remain metaphorical). He will be tutored on his beloved bagpipes, which featured as an unlikely seduction tool in his Forum soft porn oeuvre long ago. The Sunday Times hints that he will play the pipes of peace at a gig on Bob Dylan's forthcoming UK tour. However, judging by the series producer's tactical deployment, in less than 45 characters, of the phrase "it's very early days", this theory bears the same relation to the truth as the dossier Ali in no way sexed up. If, as assumed, he ends up performing Flower of Scotland for mystified fellow Burnley fans during half time at Turf Moor, this is not to denigrate the project. It is essential that Ali is kept busy with harmless pursuits. If this is his outpatient's equivalent of weaving a pot plant holder from macramé in the high security ward support group, Sky Arts is to be applauded. Aren't acts of charity like this what the Big Society is all about?

Cain, By José Saramago, trans. Margaret Jull Costa

Abel and Cain have each made an offering to God. Abel's is accepted, Cain's rejected. In a fit of jealousy, Cain murders his brother. When God asks where Abel has got to, Cain replies tetchily, "Am I my brother's keeper?" God discovers the murder, and Cain is punished. He will live, but he will be forever marked, and condemned to wander the earth.

Richard Herring: What Is Love Anyway?, Udderbelly's Pasture, Edinburgh

At the end of his Fringe show Christ on a Bike last year, Richard Herring usurped the atheism of the majority of his audience when he asked them if they believed in one true love. That concluding flourish in turn has laid the foundation for this discourse, one that has a simple mission; "to destroy love".

Stalin Ate My Homework, By Alexei Sayle

Never mind the Beatles...this is the Red Army Choir

All About Love, By Lisa Appignanesi<br />Love: a History, By Simon May

Our shelves groan with love. Out in the visual world, sex sells, but take down any novel, book of poetry or biography and it's clear that, on the page, love is most often the hook. As a magic word that all can use, but few define, its potency might be down to nothing more than the bewildering variety of experiences it covers, next to which the supposedly exotic range of options on the sexual menu seems staid. That this one word can be applied to romantic love, parental love, love between friends and love of God seems perverse, as if it is a deliberate semantic ploy to complicate and intensify our lives.

Book of a lifetime: The Brothers Karamazovby, Fyodor Dostoyevsky

'The Brothers Karamazov' has been my friend since I was 18 and first read David Magarshack's 1958 translation. Then as now it struck me as the grandest, richest and strangest of Dostoyevsky's four "big" novels. True, bookish teenagers can be overly partial to "sensitive murderers and soulful prostitutes" (Nabokov's high-nosed dismissal of Dostoyevsky), and there's no denying the delirious melodrama in these books. But having lived with 'Karamazov' for 20-odd years, I am certain Kafka judged it correctly in arguing that Dostoyevsky's characters are not all lunatics – just "incidentally mad", like the rest of us.

The Godless Boys by Naomi Wood

Dystopian novels of faith, power and resistance crop up regularly. So the form can feel stale. Yet this assured, involving debut finds a new vehicle – although one that knows its own tradition – to explore this ground. In 1986, England has been a rigid theocracy for 35 years, ever since God "came down... like a cage". The church-burning Secular Movement was quashed; freethinkers expelled. Now, on a northern island, the tribe of the godless inhabit an atheist enclave. Sarah, from the pious mainland, arrives to seek her exiled mother. She meets Nathaniel, one of the zealots who hunt down "signs of churchliness". Wood sketches the back-story with crafty discretion, while a richly imagined setting allows the fable to flourish with the minimum of preaching.

Leading article: World of trouble

The world did not end on Saturday. The followers of the California evangelist Harold Camping were left dismayed. Others were jubilant. Atheists in North Carolina put on a rapture "after-party".

Howard Jacobson: Here's what stops us being Bin Laden

First the nuptials, then the killing. Don't tell me it was just coincidence.

Life after resurrection

For many, Easter is just a feast of chocolate. But authors are still captivated by 'the greatest story ever told'
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