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.

The sumptuous Prince's Suite

B&B and beyond: Oak House No 1, Tetbury

The Kennedys travelled the world collecting art and anecdotes, now Laura Holt enjoys both – and in a stylish Georgian setting

Weekend Work: Time to tend to greenhouses

What to do

Book of a lifetime: The Garden of the Finzi-Continis, By Giorgio Bassani

It is in the nature of many great novels to create worlds of their own, entire ecosystems that may be wildly different from the reader's own experience and are yet so vivid as to become real. The Garden Of The Finzi-Continis is one such.

The Sketch: It didn't matter what they said – no one was listening

The blue and yellow livery of your tractors," Nick Clegg said, pausing for comic timing, "is tailor-made for the political, er, situation." It was a joke. It relied for its effect on the company colour scheme. This consists of a Conservative blue background on which lettering is rendered in yellow, a colour favoured by the Liberal Democrats. The DPM was making a link with his audience. He was getting in touch with them by comparing their mutual colour schemes.

Amol Rajan: We are on the verge of a great migration from cities

Lovely, lush, liveable Lincolnshire, in which I spent a chunk of the Bank Holiday weekend, is where I suspect most of my generation will end up. There and other places – Kent, Surrey, Cambridge, Oxford, Buckingham – that are within commuting distance of London, where our jobs will be, but not in the city proper. Hampshire, not Hampstead, will be where we raise families and make homes. That's because soon the only people who will be able to afford homes in London will be Bob Diamond, X-Factor contestants, and the Queen.

A Civil Arrangement, Sunday, BBC4
Nuts in May, Sunday BBC4

The Weekend's Viewing: It was from the school of Alan Bennett, a chatty monologue embedded with a twist

Ready To Wear: The merging of function with fashion may be a risky business

Equally bizarre to me is this season's love affair with printed denim

The Weekend's Viewing: A Civil Arrangement, Sunday, BBC4; Nuts in May, Sunday BBC4

It was from the school of Alan Bennett, a chatty monologue embedded with a twist

Lords reform and gay marriage take back seat as George Osborne pledges focus on 'things that really matter'

George Osborne today pledged the Government would "focus on the things that really matter" as backbenchers continued to heap criticism on the leadership in the wake of the election drubbing.

Moving On: Nick Clegg and David Cameron pictured just after they formed the coalition in 2010, before tensions grew between the two parties

Coalition looks to open new chapter

Cameron and Clegg to use joint statement and the Queen's Speech to 'move on'

Springtime bloom: The Secret Gardens of Sandwich
A green elephant stands guard over the Green Animals topiary garden besides a sculpted giraffe in Portsmouth

Trending: For bailed-out bankers, ‘creature comforts’ takes on a whole new meaning

Few things say wealth like a hedge shaped as a horse leaping a fence on the trail of an imaginary fox.

Lorry driver jailed for crashing fuel tanker into estranged wife's home

An Army veteran who crashed a tanker laden with 2,000 litres of fuel into his estranged wife's home in an attempt to destroy it has been jailed for seven years.

Pyjama Party: Tunic £48, warehouse.co.uk

Time to develop your prints

Even the most minimally minded can't fail to be seduced by pattern this spring. Rebecca Gonsalves rounds up some of the finest on offer

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Luiz Felipe Scoalri holds his hands on his head after watching Brazil succumb to a 3-0 defeat to the Netherlands
World Cup 2014Globo Esporte claims Brazil's football confederation (CBF) not renew Scolari's contract
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Rihanna celebrates Germany's win
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Rio Ferdinand, Alan Shearer, Alan Hansen and Gary Lineker during Hansen's final broadcast
Arts and Entertainment
Sheeran arrives at the 56th annual Grammy Awards earlier this year
musicYes, that would be Ed Sheeran, according to the BBC
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AKB48 perform during one of their daily concerts at Tokyo’s Akihabara theatre
musicJapan's AKB48 are one of the world’s most-successful pop acts
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Ian Thorpe has thanked his supporters after the athlete said in an interview that he is gay
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The headstone of jazz great Miles Davis at Woodlawn Cemetery in New York
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Brendan O'Carroll has brought out his female alter-ego Agnes Brown for Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie
filmComedy holds its place at top of the UK box office
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newsBear sweltering in zoo that reaches temperatures of 40 degrees
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Super Mario crushes the Messi dream as Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream

Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil
Saharan remains may be evidence of the first race war, 13,000 years ago

The first race war, 13,000 years ago?

Saharan remains may be evidence of oldest large-scale armed conflict
Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Researchers hope eye tests can spot ‘biomarkers’ of the disease
Sex, controversy and schoolgirl schtick

Meet Japan's AKB48

Pop, sex and schoolgirl schtick make for controversial success
In pictures: Breathtaking results of this weekend's 'supermoon'

Weekend's 'supermoon' in pictures

The moon appeared bigger and brighter at the weekend
Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor