Their Name Still Liveth

Geoff Dyer's grandfather fought at the battle of the Somme, the 4½-month campaign that began in the summer of 1916 and saw nearly 100,000 soldiers of the British Empire perish for gains of about six miles. Family lore holds that he had been turned away at the recruiting office and told to "come back in a couple of days when he was two years older." Yet when he finally passed away, at 91, the death certificate revealed the story to be untrue—his grandfather had been 20 when the war began.

Jack the Ripper’s victims are famous in death, but what were their lives like?

Jack the Ripper, the serial killer who terrorized London’s East End in the late 19th century, may be the catalyst for historian Hallie Rubenhold’s fascinating new book, but he is in no way its subject. Readers who wish to linger over the bloody details of the murders or speculate as to the killer’s still-unknown identity will have to look elsewhere, in the rich seam of Ripper lore. This is a story of life, not death.

Not your average tale of a single woman in the city

Imagine the plot of a romantic comedy: An English writer who has given up on love meets a man who asks her to move halfway across the world for him. That’s the prologue to “The Lonely City,” and you might expect (or dread) the ensuing story of a woman learning to love her single state, until she’s saved by a new relationship. Thankfully, Olivia Laing’s unusual book — part memoir, part biography, part cultural criticism — is less a predictable rom-com than a wonderfully melancholy meditation on modern art, urban space and the complexity of being alone.

‘Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin’ by Jill Lepore

This is a story of many Janes, stretching in time from the Nine Days’ Queen, Lady Jane Grey, to Jane Austen. A name — the satellite, feminine form of John, nickname Jenny — given again and again through the generations. The only reason we know anything at all about a Boston woman named Jane Mecom, who died in 1794 of “old age, & a Cold,” as it was reported in the church record, is that she was the beloved little sister of one of the most remarkable men in American history.

Britain’s Boarding School Problem

When socially privileged children are separated from their families at a tender age, some develop what psychotherapists have called “Boarding School Syndrome”: “a defensive and protective encapsulation of the self,” in which they learn to hide emotion, fake maturity, and assert dominance over anyone weaker. They develop loyalty to their institutional tribe and suspicion of outsiders; they become bullies devoted to winning above all.

'Ninety-nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret': Daring Portrait of a Royal

Princess Margaret, Queen Elizabeth II’s beautiful, reckless, perennially heartbroken younger sister, is everywhere and nowhere in British history in the second half of the 20th century. Running his finger down the index of books by artists, writers and comedians, her irreverent biographer Craig Brown spots her “sandwiched for eternity” between the illustrious — Marie Antoinette — and the pedestrian — the scruffy English seaside town of Margate, where she has a namesake avenue.
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