Everyday Madness by Lisa Appignanesi review – an unsteady journey from grief to love

Lisa Appignanesi’s bereavement memoir rambles but is all the more engaging for it, as it explores how loss transforms the self

“Bereavement is a kind of madness,” a widowed friend said to me when my first husband died. “For at least a year,” she went on, “on no account remarry, move house or buy a dog,” or, she might have added, write a book. The bereavement memoir has become a 21st-century genre in which Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking and Joyce Carol Oates’s A Widow’s Story are the classics. Anyone in the habit of writing will find at moments of crisis that, as Lisa Appignanesi puts it in the prelude to her own account of widowhood, “the writer steps in”. Quite where the reader comes in is not so clear. These are not, for the most part, self-help manuals, but in a society that has lost touch with many traditional ...

The World of Mr Casaubon by Colin Kidd review – in defence of George Eliot’s pedant

Casaubon’s unfinished Key to All Mythologies was not, by the lights of his time, out of touch or deluded When the 18th‑century antiquary William Stukeley was vicar of Stamford in Lincolnshire he put up a statue of Phut in the vicarage garden. Phut, son of Ham, grandson of Noah, was a figure whose importance in the development of Christianity Stukeley felt had been overlooked. While many of his contemporaries disagreed with him on this point, they didn’t disagree that it was a point. Stukeley’s friend Isaac Newton was similarly interested in the progeny of Noah. Ever since their discovery of the Americas, Europeans had readjusted their ideas about history and the nature of creation. In an age in which religion and politics were synonymous, all social order depended on the Christian system of belief – so each new discovery had to be accommodated to fit the evidence of different peoples’ ...

Rediscovering Angela Carter’s poetry: Images that stick and splinter in the mind

Carter’s early verse contains, as if in bud, the extravagant and sinister blossoms of her later work. As a new collection of her poems is published, Rosemary Hill uncovers some forgotten treasures

Angela Carter’s reputation has had a switchback ride. She went, as she put it, from being “a very promising young writer” in the 60s to being “completely ignored in two novels”. Her critical status revived in the 80s with the reimagined fairy stories of The Bloody Chamber and the films The Magic Toyshop and The Company of Wolves, but she never enjoyed what she called “the pleasantest but most evanescent kind of fame, which is that during your own lifetime”. Since her death in 1992 her stock has risen. She has been called one of the 20th century’s best writers and Lambeth council has named a street in Brixton after her.

In 2012, when the London Review ...