Books of the year 2011: Simon Heffer

Nikolaus Pevsner: the Life - Susie Harries

 

The best new book I have read this year is Susie Harries's Nikolaus Pevsner: the Life (Chatto & Windus, £30). How this German-Jewish refugee ended up cataloguing the architectural treasures of England over half a lifetime is a story almost too strange to make up. Harries is also an acute observer of the Herr Professor Doktor's private life, notably his at times tortured relationship with his wife, Lola, and his own occasional difficulties with girls. The most striking part of the story is how blithely the Pevsners let their three (Jewish) children go on holiday to Germany in mid-August 1939.

The best old book I have read - or rather reread - this year is George Eliot's Felix Holt: the Radical (Penguin Classics, £10.99), with which no New Statesman reader should remain unfamiliar.

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