23 NOVEMBER 1991, Page 33

John Jolliffe

First, Figaro. Here, Figaro There by Freddie Stockdale (John Murray, £16.95), an impresario's diary by the creator and manager of Pavilion Opera. The reader is soon lost in admiration and delight at the creative energy that keeps the show on the road. The entry for 16 March is a gem.

Then two exceptional novels now in paperback: A Question of Loyalties by Allan Massie (Sceptre, £5.99) — gripping and irresistible to anyone interested in the French; and The Gate of Angels by Penelope Fitzgerald (Fontana, £4.99) — brilliant and unexpected twists in Cambridge and London in 1913.

Auberon Waugh's autobiography rashly inquires Will This Do? (Century, £15.99). The answer is a resounding No. On almost every page there is something mean. jealous or misleading, often all three. The occasional shafts of wonderful originality make the prevailing absence of taste or judgment especially offensive.