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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Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
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i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
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Outlaw Pete is based on an eight-minute ballad from Springsteen’s 2009 Working on a Dream album
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Bill Kerr has died aged 92
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Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
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Tulisa as a judge on the X Factor in 2012
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Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – MS Swiss Corona - seven nights from £999pp
Lake Maggiore, Orta and the Matterhorn – seven nights from £899pp
Sicily – seven nights from £939pp
Pompeii, Capri and the Bay of Naples - seven nights from £799pp
Istanbul Ephesus & Troy – six nights from £859pp
Mary Rose – two nights from £319pp
Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone