RSL Review Magazine

The RSL Review contains features, interviews and essays, as well as news of the Society’s activities. Its cornerstone is the Dialogue section, consisting of two prominent writers in conversation: over the years these have included Ben Okri and Derek Walcott, Claire Tomalin and Victoria Glendinning, Seamus Heaney and Jon Stallworthy, Hilary Mantel and Beryl Bainbridge.

The RSL Review is packed with interviews, essays and photographs that you don’t find anywhere else in the press – an original, serious, and entertainingly offbeat record of our finest writers and writing.

Margaret Drabble

Print Copies

Copies of the 2022 RSL Review can be ordered here. Members receive a free copy when it is published annually. We are unfortunately currently unable to provide back copies, other than of the 2021 and 2020 issues.

RSL Review Issue Archive


Highlights include Bernardine Evaristo’s address from our Summer Party, an extract from Malorie Blackman’s memoir Just Sayin’: My Life in Words, and Leeor Ohayon’s winning 2021 V.S Pritchett Prize short story.  All Awards and Prizes winners from the past year are featured, and actresses Zawe Ashton and Adjoa Andoh discuss representation in literature, on screen, and in British culture. Merve Emre, Irenosen Okojie, Elaine Showalter and Kabe Wilson concoct a guestlist for who Virgina Woolf would have invited should she have been hosting Mrs Dalloway’s party, and we remember Fellows Hilary Mantel, Raymond Briggs, and more.


Highlights include snapshots of RSL events from a discussion of Virginia Woolf’s impact with writers Deborah Levy and Merve Emre, to an exploration of travel writing with Michael Palin and Colin Thubron. All Awards and Prizes winners from the past year are featured, with a special history of the RSL Ondaatje Prize, written by previous winner, Aida Edemariam. In addition, this issue includes tributes to our President Marina Warner, retiring at the end of December 2020, and an exclusive interview with the RSL’s President Elect, Bernardine Evaristo.


Our bumper 200th birthday issue is double the usual size. Highlights include Sarah Turvey on the importance of prison reading groups; a chapter from Hermione Lee‘s recent biography of Tom Stoppard; Salena Godden on Zora Neale Hurston; Michael Palin, Sigrid Rausing and Marina Salandy-Brown reflect on Lockdown; Paul Mendez and Francesca Wade take us on a tour of Queer Bloomsbury; Sian Cain interviews the RSL’s new Chair Daljit Nagra and Melanie Abrahams discusses the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement.


Highlights include Val McDermid and Michèle Roberts on what writers need to flourish today, 90 years after Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own ; Catherine Arnold examines the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1919; Kate Mosse and Sarah Perry discuss Gothic literature and Irenosen Okojie tells us about the most precious book she owns..

Articles from this issue

The Most Precious Book I Own

Irenosen Okojie pays tribute to Toni Morrison's novel of kaleidoscopic beauty.

RSL Review cover 2018


Autumn 2017

Highlights include an interview with new RSL President Marina Warner, children’s writer S.F. Said on how Philip Pullman has changed the literary landscape and as the RSL prepares to elect a band of younger Fellows, nine writers made Fellows in their twenties and thirties remember what it meant to them.

Articles from this issue

Against oblivion

As she is introduced as President of the RSL, Marina Warner addresses Fellows and Members on the duty of writers to retell history.

Speaking Volumes

Sue Gaisford drinks rose tea with the RSL’s new President Marina Warner.

A New Golden Age

Children’s writer S.F. Said on how Philip Pullman has changed the literary landscape.

40 Under 40

As the RSL prepares to elect a band of younger Fellows, nine writers made Fellows in their twenties and thirties remember what it meant to them.

The Temptation of Big Empty Spaces

Julia Copus talks with Ian McGuire, winner of the 2017 RSL Encore Award.

Spring 2017

Highlights include a reflection on second novels, Tanika Gupta on women in theatre and poet David Harsent and composer Harrison Birtwistle in conversation on their 30 years of working together.

Articles from this issue

Words and Music

Poet David Harsent and composer Harrison Birtwistle have worked together for over 30 years. They talk to Maggie Fergusson

Second novels

Three novelists consider their own second novels

Whatever next?

As the RSL takes on the administration of the Encore Award for best second novel, arts journalist Alex Clark, chair of this year’s judges, reflects on the joys and pitfalls of the fictional follow-up

Top Girls

Women are increasingly taking lead roles in the theatre, but there’s still a long way to go. Tanika Gupta examines the glass ceiling

Autumn 2016

Highlights include Rose Tremain on forty years of writing, Alan Hollinghurst on Henry James, an interview with the RSL’s new Chair Lisa Appignanesi, Rowan Williams on his fascination with Dostoevsky and Nicolette Jones on how the books we read as children shape us forever.

Articles from this issue

Now we are (round about) sixty

Five RSL Fellows remember the books they loved as children.

Realms of Gold: Rose Tremain on forty years of writing

Rose Tremain reviews forty years of fictional wanderings.

Susannah Herbert on the resilience of poetry

Spring 2016

Highlights include an interview with Tim Robertson (the RSL’s new Director), The art of the horror story, Literary couples , Writers inspired by artists and Fellows’ poems inspired by Shakespeare’s sonnets.

Articles from this issue

Jamal Mahjoub on why publishers need to recognise the world’s complexity

Photo by Aisha Seeberg.

Being Human

An interview with the RSL’s new Director, Tim Robertson

Spring 2015

Highlights include Hilary Mantel and Harriet Walter’s discussion of inhabiting characters, Markie Robson-Scott on the problem of the second novel, Susannah Herbert on the best literary blogs and Ali Smith on the most precious book she owns.

Autumn 2014

Highlights include James Wood and Stuart Kelly debating changes to the Man Booker Prize, Alexander McCall Smith and Edward Mendelson discussing W.H. Auden and Maggie Fergusson interviewing Alan Johnson, the winner of the 2014 RSL Ondaatje Prize.

Spring 2014

Highlights include Margaret Atwood on her passion for new technology, Margaret Drabble on her favourite novels of Angus Wilson, and Adam Foulds on the most precious book he owns.

Articles from this issue

Life is tweet: Margaret Atwood on her passion for new technology

Xandra Bingley quizzes Margaret Atwood about her passion for new technology

Mid-life memoir

Crispin Jackson reviews The Cosmo Davenport-Hines Memorial Meeting, Mid-life memoir, featuring Damian Barr and Tracey Thorn, chaired by Susannah Clapp at Somerset House on Wednesday 8th May 2013.

Autumn 2013

Highlights include Margaret Atwood on her passion for new technology, Margaret Drabble on her favourite novels of Angus Wilson, and Adam Foulds on the most precious book he owns.

Articles from this issue

The golden sketchbook – writers’ portraits

What can portraits tell us about writers? The RSL and National Portrait Gallery joined forces to find out

Bound for glory: Crispin Jackson on book art

Far from surrendering to e-publishing, the traditional book is acquiring ever more imaginative forms, Crispin Jackson reports.

The Lingua Franca: Colin Thubron on translated literature

The President’s address to the AGM: 28 June 2012

Kate Pullinger thrills to the rise of digital fiction

I sing the body of work electric

Found in Translation

Of the thousands of books published in Britain each year, only a handful are translated from foreign languages. Given the dominance of English as the international language of business and politics, perhaps our literary chauvinism is inevitable.


Highlights include Maggie Gee on the crisis in public libraries, Victoria Glendinning and Claire Tomalin in conversation and Maggie Fergusson on her twenty years with the RSL.

Articles from this issue

Vivat! Vivat Regina!

It is no longer fashionable to divide history into monarchs’ reigns. But if we take the last 60 years to be the second Elizabethan Age, what characterises its literature? As the RSL’s Patron celebrates her Diamond Jubilee, seven writers give their views

The illusion of biography

Claire Tomalin and Victoria Glendinning discuss the biographer’s art

All My Yesterdays

A diary is the most obsessive and least communicative of literary forms. Compulsive chronicler Elisa Segrave considers its appeal.

When the world is economic crisis, how are writers to respond?


Highlights include Seamus Heaney in conversation with Jon Stallworthy, Sue Gaisford on the state of biography and Richard Eyre on government spending cuts to the arts.

Articles from this issue

Richard Eyre on cuts to the arts

Richard Eyre warns against spending cuts to the arts and humanities

Diffuse muses – Fiona Sampson on writers and music or art

Fiona Sampson considers writers who are also artists or musicians


Highlights include Beryl Bainbridge and Hilary Mantel on the attraction of historical novels, Colin Thubron on his private and public selves and Maureen Duffy on digital copyright.

Articles from this issue

Belles at midnight

Stephanie Meyer's vampire novels are the latest reading sensation amongst teenage girls. Lucasta Miller looks at the continuing - and ambiguous - appeal of the gothic for female readers and writers.

The missing piece of the jigsaw: John Carey on meeting someone from William Golding’s past

When John Carey wrote his biography of William Golding, one thing eluded him: the fate of Golding's first fiancee Mollie Evans. Then, at a talk following the book's publication, a stranger came up to him...

The Road from Damascus: Colin Thubron considers past versions of himself, and the future of literature


Highlights include Katie Waldegrave on the work of First Story, John Mortimer on censorship and Margaret Drabble in conversation with Nell Dunn.

Articles from this issue

With a paper knife in the library

Linda Kelly considers the love of 'real' writers for detective fiction.

Anne Chisholm: The human factor

Anne Chisholm spent ten years working on her biography of Frances Partridge. She describes how her work coalesced with her own life

Immortal prose: how to preserve a writer’s work by James Fergusson

As the technology of publishing changes, what is the best way to preserve a writer's work for posterity? James Fergusson investigates.

A narrative gift: Katie Waldegrave on her charity, First Story

Katie Waldegrave describes how First Story's team of writers is giving new confidence to schoolchildren


Hightlights include Maggie Fergusson on prose writers who began as poets, Michael Morpurgo on teaching children to read and Vikram Seth on living in George Herbert’s house.

Articles from this issue

Michael Morpurgo on child literacy

Michael Morpurgo examines the lamentable standard of literacy among children

A vanishing and a Christmas quarrel: on the emotion behind Thomas Hardy’s Christmas cards

Anthony Gardner on the high emotions behind Thomas Hardy's Christmas cards.

The fundamental paradox: Michael Frayn and A.C. Grayling on philosophy and writing

Michael Frayn talks to A.C. Grayling about philosophy and its bearing on his plays and novels


Highlights include the RSL guide to the best independent bookshops in Britain, Fay Weldon on the dominance of the bestseller and Michael Holroyd on the sin of anger.

Articles from this issue

A is for Anger: Michael Holroyd on Stephen Potter

Michael Holroyd on why Stephen Potter's 'Gamemanship' is a better guide to life than 'Mein Kampf'.

Lost and found in London: Romesh Gunesekera on the lure of the capital

Romesh Gunesekera considers the lure of the capital for an author


Highlights include Paul Gravatt on the rise of the graphic novel, P.D. James and Ruth Rendell on crime fiction and Maggie Fergusson on writing the life of George Mackay Brown.

Articles from this issue

Once upon a time

'Tom's Midnight Garden' has enchanted generations of young readers. Almost 50 years after writing it, Philippa Pearce reflects on her career and the changes she has seen in children's fiction

After Agatha

P.D. James and Ruth Rendell discuss the development of crime writing since the age of Agatha Christie, and why it deserves to be taken as seriously as 'mainstream' fiction

Cross-hatching a plot

Paul Gravett traces the rise of the graphic novel to respectability.


Highlights include Tom Stoppard and Michael Holroyd interviewing themselves, Ben Okri and Derek Walcott discussing poetry, painting and racism and the RSL team’s experience of University Challenge.

Articles from this issue

Roll out the novel

Alan Judd salutes fiction of the Second World War.

Raj duet 

Hilary Spurling examins M.M. Kaye's unlikely friendship with Paul Scott


Highlights include James Knox  relives the agony of trying to finish his first novel, Jonathan Keates on teaching English and The Archbishop of Canterbury on poetry and faith.

Articles from this issue

A passage to Mexico

Anita Desai talks to fellow novelist Maggie Gee about the creative process, the many changes her writing has undergone, and her encounters with different cultures.

Bankers daft: Michael Holroyd on the inability of banks to deal with writers

Words and deeds: Caroline Moorehead on her work with refugees in Cairo

Caroline Moorehead explains how her biographies of two women led her to work with refugees in Cairo.

How to beat the Bounderbys: Jonathan Keates reviews the rewards and difficulties of teaching

Jonathan Keates recently celebrated 30 years of teaching English at the City of London School. Here he reviews the rewards and increasing frustrations of his profession.

Benson and hedging: James Fergusson reveals a high profile dispute over the RSL Benson Medal

James Fergusson reveals how a dispute over the Benson Medal split the RSL and set Siegfried Sassoon against T. Sturge Moore

Letter from Shortlist Land: Ysenda Maxtone Graham on being a nominee-turned-judge

Ysenda Maxtone Graham describes her experiences as nominee-turned-judge of a literary prize.

The house of fame