Literary Review - December 2005 / January 2006
DECEMBER 2005 / JANUARY 2006
FLORA & FAUNA
BAD SEX REPORT
5533 5544 5566 5588
5599 6611 6633
6666 6677 6688
6644 7766 7755 7722 7744 4477 7733
R AYMOND S EITZ The River of Doubt Candice Millard T OM S TACEY The State of Africa Martin Meredith Africa: A Modern History Guy Arnold R ICHARD D OWDEN The Chains of Heaven Philip Marsden H ARRY M OUNT The Call of the Weird Louis Theroux
C HARLES E LLIOTT The Naming of Names Anna Pavord J ANE G ARDAM This Other Eden Andrea Wulf and Emma Gieben-Gamal The Riverside Gardens of Thomas More’s London C Paul Christianson S TEPHEN A NDERTON The Secret Life of Trees Colin Tudge Oak: The Frame of Civilisation William Bryant Logan P ETER D AVIESON B IRD B OOKS
J ONATHAN M IRSKY China: The Three Emperors (Ed) Evelyn S Rawski and Jessica Rawson
P ETER W ASHINGTON Crusoe’s Secret: The Aesthetics of Dissent Tom Paulin ACG RAYLINGON M YTHS J ONATHAN M IRSKY The History of ‘The Times’ Graham Stewart V ALENTINE C UNNINGHAM Faculty Towers Elaine Showalter K ATIE H ICKMAN The Oxford Companion to the Photograph (Ed) Robin Lenman The Ongoing Moment Geoff Dyer M ICHAEL P ROWSE The Google Story David A Vise F RANCIS K ING Untold Stories Alan Bennett C RISPIN J ACKSON The Greatest Fight of our Generation Lewis A Erenberg Beyond Glory David Margolick
J OHN D UGDALE The March ELDoctorow O PHELIA F IELD Get A Life Nadine Gordimer S EBASTIAN S HAKESPEARE Nothing That Meets The Eye: The Uncollected Stories of Patricia Highsmith S AM L EITH Memories of My Melancholy Whores Gabriel García Márquez J OANNA K AVENNA Leopard VI: The Norwegian Feeling for Real (Ed) Harald Baache-Wiig
T OM F LEMING P HILIP O AKES S USAN C ROSLAND L UCY P OPESCU
CLASSIFIEDS 79/80LR CROSSWORD 10LR BOOKSHOP 78
P ETER W ASHINGTON is General Editor of the Everyman’s Library.
M ICHAEL B URLEIGH ’s Earthly Powers was published in October by Harper Collins. He is finishing the sequel, Sacred Causes.
L UCY W OODING is a lecturer in Early Modern History at King’s College London, and the author of Rethinking Catholicism in Reformation England (OUP).
J ONATHAN M IRSKY resigned from The Timesin early 1998.
R ICHARD D OWDEN is Director of the Royal African Society.
E VAN M AWDSLEY is Professor of International History at the University of Glasgow. His Thunder in the East: The Nazi-Soviet War, 1941-1945has just been published by Arnolds.
AC G RAYLING ’s Descartes: The Life of René Descartes and Its Place in His Times was published in October by Free Press.
R ICHARD O VERY ’s The Dictators: Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Russia was awarded the Wolfson Prize for History 2005 and is available in paperback from Penguin.
P ETER J ONES is the founder of Friends of Classics.
B LAIR W ORDEN is Research Professor of History at the University of London. His most recent book, Roundhead Reputations: The English Civil Wars and the Passions of Posterity, is published by Allen Lane.
F RANCES W ILSON ’s books include Literary Seductions and, most recently, The Courtesan’s Revenge, available in paperback from Faber & Faber.
R AYMOND S EITZ was US Ambassador to the Court of St James from 1991 to 1994.
The Literary Review, incorporating Quarto, is published monthly from: 44 Lexington Street, London W1F 0LW Tel: 020 7437 9392 Fax: 020 7734 1844 ISSN 0144 4360 © All subscription enquiries and changes of address to: Literary Review Subscriptions, FREEPOST LON 17963 London SW20 8YY Tel: 020 8545 2755 Fax: 020 8545 2756. UK Subscription Rate £32, Europe £39, rest of the world air mail only £54 (US$104) USA Airspeed subscription price is £39 (US$75) per annum. Periodical pre-paid at Champlain NY (USPS004218). All advertising enquiries to: Sarah Mahaffy, Literary Review, 44 Lexington Street, London W1F 0LW Tel: 020 7437 9392 Printed by Unwin Brothers, The Gresham Press, Old Woking, Surrey, GU22 9LH Tel: 01483 757 588 Fax: 01483 755 168 Distributed to newsagents worldwide by COMAG Specialist, Tavistock Works, Tavistock Rd, West Drayton, Middlesex, UB7 7QX Tel: 01895 433 800 Distributed to bookshops by Central Books, 99 Wallis Road, London E9 Tel: 020 8986 4854 www.literaryreview.co.uk email: firstname.lastname@example.org
LITERARY REVIEW Dec 2005 / Jan 2006
A NDREW R OBERTS GUILTY?
T HE N EVILLE C HAMBERLAIN D IARY L ETTERS , V OLUME IV: T HE D OWNING S TREET Y EARS , 1934–1940
Edited by Robert Self (Ashgate 588pp £82.50, 4 Vols £250)
N EVILLE C HAMBERLAINWAS nothing if not a diligent correspondent. Every week he wrote to his sisters Ida and Hilda letters that were in effect a diary of all that he was doing politically. They have long been invaluable for historians in archive form, but now they have finally been published in extenso, along with a scholarly fifty-page introduction and helpful footnotes by their very diligent editor, Robert Self. There is also a glossary of nicknames so that readers will be able to identify ‘The All-Highest’ (Lord Curzon), ‘The Goat’ (Lloyd George), ‘Our Herb’ (Herbert Samuel), and so on. Self marks the triumphant conclusion of a five-year endeavour with this, the fourth and last volume, which covers Chamberlain from January 1934 until his death in November 1940. Unfortunately the huge price of this book will mean that few will be able to buy a copy. However, anyone visiting a library will now be able to read the week-by-week testimony of the man who masterminded much of the Abdication Crisis, pursued the appeasement of Nazi Germany until the Munich Agreement of September 1938, guaranteed Poland the following April, and took Britain to war in September 1939, only to cede the premiership to Winston Churchill after the Norway Debate of May 1940. For all the confidentially fraternal idiom of these letters, the events they describe are of world-shattering moment. Readers can at last decide for themselves whether Chamberlain was a noble striver after peace or, in the words of one of the bestselling philippics against him, the leader of ‘The Guilty Men’. Or both. Or neither. I suspect that after reading these pages, most people will agree with Self’s own conclusion that ‘Neville Chamberlain was neither the inspired hero so extravagantly lauded in the immediate aftermath of Munich nor the foolishly misguided amateur so viciously
Chamberlain: boundlessly self-confident
denigrated after his fall.’ After the Cabinet minutes in the National Archives, these letters are the single most important historical source for the appeasement period. The ultimate insider’s contemporary account, they are also the most significant documents to be published on the Second World War period since the unexpurgated diaries of Field Marshal Lord Alanbrooke. Chamberlain’s personality inevitably comes through powerfully in these 588 pages. He was ambitious, keen to replace Stanley Baldwin as premier long before 1937, by which time he was sixty-eight years old; comfortable with power (‘As Chancellor of the Exchequer I could hardly move a pebble, now I only have to raise a finger and the whole face of Europe is changed!’); boundlessly self-confident (he even referred to ‘the Chamberlain touch’); and occasionally caustic (Clement Davies MP was ‘that treacherous Welshman’, Wallis Simpson was ‘a thoroughly selfish and heartless adventuress’, and so on). Although Chamberlain started off with a credulous attitude towards Hitler when he flew to Germany for the first time in September 1938 (writing ‘I got the impression that here was a man who could be relied upon when he had given his word’), he always disliked him personally, warning the Cabinet after his second meeting that the Führer ‘had a narrow mind and was violently prejudiced on certain subjects’. Although the Munich Agreement did indeed buy an extra year for rearmament, which Britain put to invaluable use building the Spitfires and Hurricanes that were to win the Battle of Britain, that was only a by-product of a deal which Chamberlain genuinely believed at the time had won ‘peace for our time’. Yet Chamberlain also wrote several times about the need for air rearmament (as these letters attest), seeing it primarily as making war less likely rather than as being necessary for national survival in the event of catastrophe on the Western Front. The collapse of May 1940 surprised him as much as anyone. As Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Thirties he had been responsible for lowering defence expenditure, rather as Churchill had been the previous decade, though with much less of an excuse. Chamberlain was no master of the gripping phrase; there is no Churchillian rhetoric in this volume and no one will read it for the language so much as for the fascinating content. A sign of how remote he was, or
LITERARY REVIEW Dec 2005 / Jan 2006