What We Are Reading Today: Life in a Cold Climate by Laura Thompson

Updated 06 December 2019

What We Are Reading Today: Life in a Cold Climate by Laura Thompson

In an enjoyable biography of an interesting woman, Laura Thompson effectively analyses Nancy Mitford’s work in the context of her life and loves.

Mitford “was obviously a much more complex character than many modern accounts paint her and this book certainly demonstrates this,” said a review in goodreads.com.

A stylish and well-informed writer, Thompson brings a snobbishness of her own to her sympathetic account of Mitford’s life.

Christopher Benfey said in a review for The New York Times: “The firmness of Mitford’s anti-fascist views was put to the test during World War II when she was approached by British intelligence to spy on General de Gaulle’s Free French officer corps in London. A mole was apparently passing information to the collaborationist Vichy regime. Thompson tells us frustratingly little about this episode. Instead, she trains her attention on Mitford’s love affair with one of the officers, Charles de Gaulle’s right-hand man and chief political adviser, Gaston Palewski, a heavyset man with a Hitler mustache and receding hair.”


What We Are Reading Today: Crossing the Pomerium by Michael Koortbojian

Updated 23 January 2020

What We Are Reading Today: Crossing the Pomerium by Michael Koortbojian

The ancient Romans famously distinguished between civic life in Rome and military matters outside the city — a division marked by the pomerium, an abstract religious and legal boundary that was central to the myth of the city’s foundation. 

Michael Koortbojian explores how the Romans used social practices and public monuments to assert their capital’s distinction from its growing empire, to delimit the proper realms of religion and law from those of war and conquest, and to establish and disseminate so many fundamental Roman institutions across three centuries of imperial rule. Crossing the Pomerium probes such topics as the appearance in the city of Romans in armor, whether in representation or in life, the role of religious rites on the battlefield, and the military image of Constantine on the arch built in his name. 

The book reveals how, in these instances and others, the ancient ideology of crossing the pomerium reflects the efforts of Romans not only to live up to the ideals they had inherited, but also to reconceive their past and to validate contemporary practices during a time when Rome enjoyed growing dominance in the Mediterranean world.