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.

600 members of the public will be allowed access to the site at Elstree Studios in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire

Who would live in a house like this? Inside the Big Brother house before it becomes a National Trust property

Paul Gallagher gets a sneak tour of Elstree studios propety

'A puerile and irrelevant project': Verdict on the National Trust’s controversial partnership with reality TV show Big Brother - by a Tory MP

Conservative MP Daniel Kawczynski criticises 'cost-neutral' move as charity attempts to attract younger people to heritage sites

She's lovin' it: How a trip to a McDonald's Drive-Thru led to an unlikely love of super-size grasses

The McDonald's Drive-Thru Garden: how does that sound? I've been doing some automobile-based garden visiting. Not quite visiting, I suppose, if you don't actually get out of the car. But a McDonald's Drive-Thru is, I think, pretty much predicated upon the idea of you not getting out of the car. It also possesses a totally surprising and rather nicely planted little garden, deftly placed between the order microphone and the paying window. Pieces of broken black slate on the ground, red-leaved cordyline, a deeply lobed black-leaved elder that throws up raspberry tones in bright sunlight and, this time of year, pale wheaty festuca grasses.

Living museum: The owners have lavished Montpellier House with collectibles

Stay the Night: Montpellier House, Cheltenham

A tired hotel in the town’s smartest neighbourhood has been converted into an impressive holiday let, says Sophie Lam

Postcard from... Galicia

A literary hot tub on offer at Wigtown Book Festival

Book lovers will be able to share a jacuzzi with the literati for the first time

Goulding judged for over 40 years at The Chelsea Flower Show

Michael Goulding: Flower arranger who served the Queen and nine prime ministers

Michael Goulding was a flower arranger to royalty and to nine successive Prime Ministers and their wives, from Macmillan to Major. They were all interested in flowers: Alec Douglas-Home used to rearrange Goulding's flowers when he left the room; Dorothy Macmillan would bring flowers from Birch Grove for Goulding to arrange – when he got them they were often dead. Margaret Thatcher took a great interest in his flowers, and put his name forward for a Queen's Birthday Honours award.

The Business Matrix: Tuesday 17 September 2013

Coutts overtakes RBS for assets

Jos Buttler hits out against Australia in Cardiff

England vs Australia ODI: Anything is possible for Jos Buttler the fearless

Series still to play for after another thrilling innings from England’s fastest run-maker

Tony Blair's eldest son Euan weds at ceremony near family's multi-million pound mansion

Euan Blair and Suzanne Ashman have been dating for eight years, having been introduced by former Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon

An injured Dzhokhar Tsarnaev emerges from the boat where he had been hiding - a sniper's red dot can be seen on his head

Boston bombings: photos from public wanted for calender of pictures from Tsarnaev manhunt

Calender will feature photos of police during the manhunt for the brothers suspected of detonating bombs at the Boston Marathon

The villa in the resort of Dalyan, Turkey, where the shooting took place

Turkish villa shootings: Father of suspect says argument over secret relationship led to Catherine Anne Bury’s death

Veli Acar allegedly told police the shootings were a 'crime of passion' against his lover, but the family deny any romantic attachment

London's first cat café gets green light

New high street experience finally receives planning permission and announces location on Bethnal Green Road in Shoreditch, London

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Independent Travel
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Lake Garda
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Prices correct as of 15 May 2015
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Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
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7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
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Versace haute couture review

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No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

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Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate