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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David Beckham
peopleFootballer joins No campaign
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Angel Di Maria
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Piers Morgan tells Scots they might not have to suffer living on the same island as him if they vote ‘No’ to Scottish Independence
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i100Exclusive interview with the British analyst who helped expose Bashar al-Assad's use of Sarin gas
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game
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Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script
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newsIn short, yes
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Angel Di Maria celebrates his first goal for Manchester United against QPR
Football4-0 victory is team's first win under new manager Louis van Gaal
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Denny Miller in 1959 remake of Tarzan, the Ape Man
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Arts and Entertainment
Cheryl despairs during the arena auditions
tvX Factor review: Drama as Cheryl and Simon spar over girl band

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Independent Travel
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These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week
The fall of Rome? Cash-strapped Italy accused of selling its soul to the highest bidder

The fall of Rome?

Italy's fears that corporate-sponsored restoration projects will lead to the Disneyfication of its cultural heritage
Glasgow girl made good

Glasgow girl made good

Kelly Macdonald was a waitress when she made Trainspotting. Now she’s taking Manhattan
Sequins ahoy as Strictly Come Dancing takes to the floor once more

Sequins ahoy as Strictly takes to the floor once more

Judy Murray, Frankie Bridge and co paired with dance partners
Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Alexander Wang pumps it up at New York Fashion Week
The landscape of my imagination

The landscape of my imagination

Author Kate Mosse on the place that taught her to tell stories