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Armando Iannucci recently said that the UK falls behind the US  when it comes to female comedy writers. Do you find it to be a male-dominated industry?

Book Of A Lifetime: Great Expectations, By Charles Dickens

'Great Expectations' was perhaps the first "big book" I really got through at a gallop when I was about 11. Instead of being outside, practising to open the batting for Oz, I began the novel when housebound with asthma in a Sydney suburb of no distinction. I have to say that partway through the book my reading got a fillip when, breathing easier, I saw at the local picture house the magnificent film version directed by David Lean and starring John Mills and Alex Guinness.

In just 30 days, you too can write a masterpiece

Or maybe not. As writers prepare for National Novel Writing Month, Andrew Johnson looks at classics that were knocked out in a few weeks

Last Night in Twisted River, By John Irving

It would seem that publishing novels for five decades and winning a National Book Award (for The World According to Garp) isn't as confidence-boosting as one might imagine. How else to explain the curious Author's Note at the end of John Irving's latest door-stopper of a novel?

Rochester's literary past reveals a great deal about the city

Charles Dickens, champion of the working man and the overburdened woman, would be delighted with the offer each day from 7am to 9am outside the Golden Lion pub: tea or coffee for 49p. I’ll have two, thanks, and keep the change: a boost of caffeine is just what you need to make the most of the city that has been thriving for two millennia – and, within the past year, has moved even closer to London and the rest of the country.

Leading article: Puppet masters

The Victoria and Albert Museum in London has acquired an extensive Punch & Judy archive made up of scores of artworks, photographs and books. In some ways the puppet show, with its traditional costumes, the grotesque visages of the characters and the lack of hi-tech tricks, looks like very old-fashioned entertainment. Avatar it is not. But on the other hand the show's bold approach to themes such as domestic violence, child neglect and disrespect for the law might be said to give it a strikingly contemporary feel.

A guide to A-road Britain: A149

Pouring rain one minute, vast blue skies the next, that's normal for Norfolk. Margareta Pagano travels from Great Yarmouth to King's Lynn, passing some of her favourite places in the world

Famous wills: They couldn't take it with them...

The last wishes of some of history's most eminent figures have been released. Kevin Rawlinson surveys their legacies

Bleak House, New Vic Theatre, Staffordshire

Before Bleak House begins, Inspector Bucket appears in the foyer of the New Vic Theatre inviting the public to turn detective and help him solve a murder mystery. We get our bearings with the help of an enlarged map on which are perched tiny, illuminated models, from stately home to slum, of buildings featured in Dickens's novel. Backstage we visit the scene of the crime via glimpses of Krook's rag-and-bottle shop, a glassy-eyed Lady Dedlock staring back at us through a rain-streaked window, Miss Flite's bird-filled garret, and the blood-spattered desk at which Tulkinghorn died. Scrutinising each small scenario, poring over every scrap of spidery writing, hanging on to snippets of information supplied by throaty-voiced actors, the audience clearly enjoyed dipping its collective toe into this piece of immersive theatre.

Dickensian London – alive and well in Kent

A Slice of Britain: Dedicated fans of the great Victorian novelist get into bustles and bonnets for their annual parade in Broadstairs

Album: Laurie Anderson Homeland (Nonesuch)

As the title suggests, Homeland sees Laurie Anderson returning to the familiar territory of her opus magnum United States I-IV, with a series of ruminations and observations upon her native land, in which unashamed intellectualism – references to Kierkegaard, Thomas Paine, etc – is balanced by her dry wit and ironic delivery.

Tim Sturtridge: What The Dickens - England’s great expectations

In the first instalment of this updated Dickens classic our hero starts out as the general dogsbody to a Sunday League outfit.

First-edition books may fetch £15m

A collection of first-edition books, described as the greatest of its kind, is estimated to sell for between £8m and £15m at auction later this year.

DJ Taylor: Back to the 1930s – but this time we're not quite pulling together

In 1931, people queued up to pay their taxes and help cut the spiralling national deficit. These days, we're more likely to worry about our own wellbeing than the country's

Why Dickens was not the family man history would have us believe

A new film exposes the married father-of-10's 13-year affair with a young actress – and his possible love child, writes Arifa Akbar
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Independent Travel
Pompeii, Capri & the Bay of Naples
Seven Cities of Italy
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence
Prague, Budapest and Vienna
Lake Garda
Minoan Crete and Santorini
Prices correct as of 15 May 2015
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?