A Savage War of Peace

(by Alistair Horne) Terrific, informative, thrilling account of the French being kicked off the Barbary Coast. I don’t know if Algiers is better off, but at least they own it.

Continue Reading →

The Life of Thomas More

(by Peter Ackroyd) Highly readable and balanced life (and death) of the contentious, hair-shirted and many faceted ‘man for all seasons’ (omnium horarum). Beatified but no saint, an intolerant believer and a survivor who sacrificed himself on principle, he remains an enigma and a controversial one. This book comes close to doing justice to all sides and all sides of the man and one can’t do much better than that.

Continue Reading →

The Embarrassment of Riches

(Simon Schama) There’s the Amsterdam dutch And the Zaandam dutch And the Rotterdam dutch And the God-damn dutch… However, despite their slightly dodgy record in slave driving, tulip speculating, trade finance and robust colonization, this admiring and admirably crammed history of culture in the Dutch Golden Age is a delight. The ‘Burgemeester van Delft’ in Jan Steen’s painting on the cover is a dead ringer for Jeffrey Jones (Mr. Rooney in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off).

Continue Reading →

The Minoans

Image courtesy of Eric Gaba

( by J. Lesley Fitton) For over 40 years Sir Arthur Evans had a patent on “Minoan” civilisation on Crete and tended to make it up as he went, albeit subconsciously. This rather sober book puts the pots and pans and ‘restored’ frescoes in a slightly less romantic context.

Continue Reading →


(by Duff Cooper) When told that those who fell in with Napoleon had “betrayed the cause of Europe”, Talleyrand replied that was “a question of dates”.  A legendary survivor, his apparent inconsistency seems to have less to do with a lack of morals than with the exigencies of geopolitics. This elegant biography of the wily, oleaginous and adaptable diplomat-statesman, serving French Kings from Louis XVI to Louis-Philippe, was written by Duff Cooper, who knew a thing or two about difficult men (and women).

Continue Reading →

© Copyright 2014 The Varnished Culture All Rights Reserved. TVC Disclaimer. Site by KWD&D.