A Year with the Queen

It is, apparently, a small world after all. Leafing through the glossy pages of Robert Hardman's chronicle of queenhood, I found myself -- as an expatriate Brit -- unexpectedly in sympathy with that hardy caricature, the booming and childlike American who imagines that everyone in little old Europe knows everybody else. On its peculiar global mission of diplomacy, trade, dress-up, and brand consolidation, the British monarchy is really an extraordinarily democratic institution: it is estimated that half a million persons, from every possible walk of life, will bump up against one of the Royals in the course of an average year. Surely somewhere in this wry and perceptive book (companion to the BBC-TV series), with all of its photographs and on-the-spot descriptions, I will encounter someone I know? From town to town and nation to nation goes Elizabeth II, her voice trapped forever -- like a princess in a tower -- at the upper end of its range, speaking to all the peoples of the world with her special gift for the inconsequential. Hardman is a fine writer, particularly adept at capturing the complex mixture of ceremony and domesticity that defines the Royals' interactions with their own subjects. "Been shot at?" enquires the Duke of Edinburgh of some British servicemen, on a visit to Basra, Iraq. "We were engaged last week in an urban area," replies Major Jamie Howard. "Thankfully, one of the sentries returned fire and killed the insurgent." "Oh good," says the Duke. -

July 28: Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin eloped on this day in 1814.

Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

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Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Paradise and Elsewhere

Canadian short story marvel Kathy Page emerges as the Alice Munro of the supernatural from these heartfelt tales of shapeshifting swimmers, mild-mannered cannibals, and personality-shifting viruses transmitted through kisses.

Pastoral

When a persuasive pastor arrives in a sleepy farm town, his sage influence has otherworldly results (talking sheep, a mayor who walks on water). But can he pull off the miracle of finding kindly local Liz Denny the love of her life?  Small wonder looms large in this charmer from Andre Alexis.

The Hundred-Year House

When a poetry scholar goes digging through the decrepit estate of his wife's family to uncover a bygone arts colony's strange mysteries, he awakens a tenacious monster: his mother-in-law. A wickedly funny take on aging aristocracies from author Rebecca Makkai (The Borrower).