Arts and Entertainment

A boy enters a palace of a hundred rooms where an assassin may lurk behind every door and shadowy figures are reflected in a Hall of Mirrors.  An astonishing treasure lies at its heart, but powerful enemies are at the gates.

Isa & May, By Margaret Forster

The heroine of Margaret's Forster's new novel has a curious name. Her parents have called her Isamay, named after both her grandmothers, Isa and May.

UK's oldest person dies at 111

A woman believed to be the oldest person in the UK has died at the age of 111.

Open again after 145 years, the eighth wonder of the world

How do you turn an underwater tunnel with a flooding problem into a national sensation? Arifa Akbar tells the extraordinary story of the 'Thames Tunnel'

Isa and May, By Margaret Forster

The narrator of this curious novel has an unusual name. Her parents, James and Jean, have called her Isamay, after her paternal grandmother, Isabel, and Jean's mother May. Isabel, or Isa, lives in some splendour, with Mrs Roberts to clean for her and the obliging Elspeth to bake the cakes that accompany afternoon tea. She also has a gardener on call. May, by contrast, lives alone in the two-up, two-down terraced house in which she shared her life with her husband Albert, a plumber of beloved memory, and raised four children, only one of whom, Jean, remains in London. Isamay is devoted to her widowed grannies, whose very different kinds of courage and tenacity are a source of both irritation and inspiration to her. Throughout the novel, she is working on a dissertation for an MA in Women's Studies, taking as her subject the importance of the grandmother in the family. Her supervisor, the forbidding, middle-aged Claudia, advises Isamay to examine the way certain figures from history have behaved towards their grandchildren - the prison reformer Elizabeth Fry, for instance, and Queen Victoria. There are others, but it is really Isa and May with whom she is chiefly, and deeply, concerned.

Two-day holiday to mark Queen's Diamond Jubilee

Workers are to be given an extra bank holiday in 2012 to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, it was confirmed today.

Richard Ingrams’s Week: We forget our soldiers' legal fears over Iraq

Having, as I do, what some may consider a perverse inclination to sympathise with anyone subjected to unanimous abuse, I have been struggling to think of something nice to say about Mr Nick Griffin.

The Three Emperors, By Miranda Carter

"When so markedly eccentric a nature dominates a realm there cannot but be convulsions." So commented Philipp zu Eulenburg, one of Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany's few friends. His remark encapsulates the problem with autocracy, the danger of allowing a single, flawed, human being to exercise absolute, or near absolute, power.

Queen Victoria's bloomers revealed

A pair of enormous knickers which belonged to Queen Victoria have been uncovered after being hidden away in a private collection for more than 100 years, it was announced today.

Edinburgh sees the largest ever gathering of clan chiefs

Thousands come together from around the world to celebrate their heritage

Darling sticks with a rather battered tradition

When Labour came to power in 1997, Gordon Brown marked new beginnings by ditching the battered old Budget box that had been passed down the generations since 1860.

Becoming Queen, By Kate Williams

The front cover shows a portrait of a youthful Princess Victoria, but that belies the fact that this book is actually about two young princesses: Victoria and her cousin, Charlotte. Charlotte was born 23 years before the future monarch, and was the only child of George IV. Her tragedy is that she died in childbirth, aged only 21; but without her death, Victoria probably wouldn't even have been born, never mind become queen. After Charlotte's death, her father's useless, dissipated brothers began searching, rather late in the day, for suitable brides by whom to have possible heirs. That was the reason Victoria's father married her mother; it's the reason for Victoria's existence.

The Word On... The Young Victoria

"The film is exquisitely beautiful: at times the characters look like mahogany in candlelight, like the wooden pawn Victoria fears she is becoming. Britain's in situ castles and palaces cannot fail to host perfect settings for the royal screamings and weepings that are largely over nothing. What the film lacks is a sense of its awful era – if only Dickens could have had a hand in the script." - Vincent Olliver, www.teletext.co.uk

The Street Philosopher, By Matthew Plampin

Is Crimea-lit set to be the next big trend?

Duchess attends Victoria premiere

The Duchess of York attended the world premiere of The Young Victoria, declaring that it was the culmination of 15 years of dreaming.

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