Arts and Entertainment

The idea of The Great American Novel feels like an albatross around the neck of that country’s literature. Sooner or later every white middle-class male writer with any kind of reputation feels obliged to have a stab at it, usually with limited success. Eventually they think it’s time to pack away all the fun stuff like storytelling, energy and plot, and make some big state-of-the-nation address, telling people exactly how things stand in the good ol’ US of A. Interestingly, America’s women writers don’t tend to feel the obligation to grandstand so strongly, and their novels are usually all the better for that.

Royal Marines in Lympstone, Devon, above right, joined volunteers to clear the area of the rampant Himalayan balsam

Himalayan balsam: Call the Marines! It’s an alien plant invasion

Scientists, and now the military, are battling the spread of Himalayan balsam

Love blooms: Aldo Di Toro as Nemorino and Sarah Tynan as Adina in L’elisir d’amore

Classical review: L'elisir d'amore - Plant-food and pesticide make a knock-out elixir

Holland Park's Donizetti is set on an industrial farm and its hero wears a boiler suit, but the warmth of the singing still melts hearts

Go green: Mark's bolting herb soup

Bolting herb soup

Serves 4-6

The Conversation: Roja Dove, perfumer

When did you decide perfumery was for you?

Martha-Renée Kolleh, runs her Yeanon Cafe in the market square in the old West Yorkshire mill town of Ossett

Extraordinary life of the café owner who took on the racists

Martha-Renee Kolleh overcame a tragic upbringing in her native Liberia to build a life here. No wonder she had the courage to stand up to prejudice

Fiona Maddocks: Her life of Hildegard is both scholarly and very readable

Paperback review: Hildegard of Bingen, By Fiona Maddocks

Every woman needs some turbot liver

The English abroad: the legacy of British gardens on the Italian Riviera

The Italians have been no slouches in creating steep, cliffside gardens with spectacular drops to cool, glistening blue-green water

Weekend work: Cut back early-flowerers

What to do

Long or short, use the summer holidays to get kids playing outside

Slowly, almost imperceptibly, over the last couple of decades the children have disappeared from our streets

Blaze destroys £4m Kensington mansion that was under renovation

Mother and her daughter are pulled to safety as firefighters try to contain the fire

The 10 Best patio heaters

From Mexican chimineas to outdoor fireplaces, we look at ways of keeping warm and toasty on cool summer evenings

Designer digs: One of the Four Rooms

B&B and Beyond: Four rooms, Porto - Discreet elegance in Portugal’s lovely second city

This converted townhouse offers design fans a serene and stylish stay in Porto’s old fishermen’s district, says Katie Monk

Weekend work: Time to tidy up plants

What to do

Weekend work: Time to prune plants

What to do

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Australia vs New Zealand live
cricket Follow over-by-over coverage as rivals New Zealand and Australia face off
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Zayn has become the first member to leave One Direction. 'I have to do what feels right in my heart,' he said
peopleWe wince at anguish of fans, but his 1D departure shows the perils of fame in the social media age
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Researchers found that just 10 one-minute swill-and-spit sessions are enough to soften tooth enamel and make teeth vulnerable to erosion
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The Regent Street Cinema’s projection room in the 1920s
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Leah Devine is only the ninth female to have made the Young Magician of the Year final since the contest began more than 50 years
peopleMeet the 16-year-old who has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year
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Jonathan Anderson was born in Northern Ireland but now based between London, where he presents a line named JW Anderson
peopleBritish designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
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Andy Davidhazy at the beginning (left) and end (right) of his hike
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Taylor Swift is applying to trademark song lyrics from 1989
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The popularity of TV shows such as The Liver Birds encouraged Liverpudlians to exaggerate their Scouse accent
voicesWe exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
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Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing