PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewIt’s refreshing...that David Goodwillie’s very good new novel, Kings County, depicts [hipsters] with genuine, unmitigated sympathy and good-fellowship, as if, in spite of their fashionable lifestyles, they are as fully human as anyone else ... remarkably enough they are more concerned about being kind to one another than following the latest culinary or sartorial trends ... the youngish people who populate Kings County are thoughtful and appealing ... It’s been a long time since I’ve encountered a character like Theo in contemporary fiction. His bookishness and uncompromising, unabashedly serious taste make life harder on a practical level, but these qualities are also treated as something to be respected, even admired, rather than mocked as snobby or elitist ... The revelation of [a] hidden chapter of Audrey’s past...becomes the engine of the novel’s plot. It makes for a suspenseful read. After the first chapter or two, the pages of Kings County begin to turn quickly. But suspense plots have certain requirements, some of which conflict with or simply crowd out the quieter imperatives of character-driven fiction ... In a mystery novel...the characters’ relationships generally evolve in tandem with the plot, becoming strained as the mystery ratchets up in intensity and then resolving on cue. Kings County hews pretty closely to this formula, wrapping everything up a little too neatly. On the other hand, Goodwillie’s characters are so likable—so sincere in their affections and so decent in their moral decision-making, in spite of their decadent lifestyles—that it’s hard to begrudge them their pat resolutions ... Goodwillie is also a stylish writer, smart and witty without being a show-off.
Takis Wurger, trans. by Charlotte Collin
PositiveThe New York Times Book Review\"The gritty subject matter is juxtaposed against a prose style we tend to associate with a different kind of novel — it reads more like a coming-of-age story than a thriller. Würger’s writing is mannered; it often has an otherworldly, fable-like quality ... Würger avoids most references to contemporary life — if Hans had a television growing up, we don’t know it — and there is a Gothic quality to the series of misfortunes he heaps upon his young hero ... The self-conscious bleakness and attempts at timelessness can seem a little forced, as if they are mostly intended to give the impression of depth and to distinguish the book from more commercial novels ... So, an underdog in a dazzling social setting and a mystery to solve — one that happens to involve attending parties full of scantily clad and strangely accommodating young women? Combine those elements with a prose style that is literary — or rather \'literary\' — without being difficult, and an undeniably true social message (that rape is very bad, and so are old-boy networks that perpetuate it in ritualistic form), and it seems as if The Club is almost ingeniously designed for success: a guilty pleasure, but one we can leave sitting out on our coffee tables without a whiff of embarrassment.\
RaveBookforumThe first few pages of Lydia Kiesling’s new novel, The Golden State, are not very good, are in fact very nearly bad ... Soon after, the real voice of the book—dry, observant, self-aware, smart without being showy—begins to emerge. The novel’s mood doesn’t so much shift—the early pages were too confused and logorrheic to have one—as settle. In addition to her husband’s absence, Daphne has suffered other losses, including the death of both her parents; she is lonely, touchingly so. She is also intellectually curious, sensitive, and consistently interesting in her thoughts. The book reflects her voice; it is gently sad but warm and frequently funny too ... The Golden State bears some resemblance to a flaneur novel. But if it is a flaneur novel, it represents a step forward for the genre. The roving male protagonist who observes the world around him from a position of detachment has been replaced by a narrator who combines an abstract intellectual interest in politics and class and national identity with insights into her own relationships and emotional life. Daphne is especially acute about parenting a small child ... Which brings me back to why I am so frustrated by the novel’s opening pages. It would be a shame if readers were to put this one down too soon. After ten or fifteen pages, The Golden State becomes what it should have been all along: an excellent, accomplished, original novel, one of the best I’ve read in a while.
PositiveThe Washington PostThe Answers features a large cast, and Lacey’s depictions of everyone from Kurt, a narcissistic, pseudointellectual movie actor, to Matheson, Kurt’s devoted assistant, are deliciously shrewd ... This isn’t the stuff of easy, overly broad satire — it’s devastating because, damning as it is, it feels accurate ... With so many story lines, it’s almost inevitable that not all are resolved by book’s end. We never do find out, for example, what happened to some of the characters or how others are connected to one another...Lacey is an extremely talented writer, but The Answers is a little less than the sum of its many excellent parts.
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewAll four [stories] retain the insightfulness and sympathy of Russo’s earlier work, but they are restrained, free of dramatic or improbable twists. In this respect, they call to mind Russo’s terrific novel Nobody’s Fool (1993), a panoramic and minutely observed book ... Throughout the collection, Russo’s tone is wistful and reflective; Trajectory is a less comic, less antic and gleeful book than Nobody’s Fool ... Russo’s skill is such that flaws are easy to forgive. Thoughtful and warmhearted, his fiction has the engaging quality of tales told by a friend, over drinks, about a person we know in common. And so we lean forward, eager to hear what happened next.
PositiveThe New YorkerNobody has a more exquisite appreciation than McInerney of the morbid, hypervigilant sensitivity we tend to harbor about our place in the world, especially when we’re feeling down ... the picture that emerges of a marriage that seems both more stable and lonelier than it has ever been, is quietly affecting ... Bright, Precious Days is mellow, earnest, almost elegiac. It is intelligent, and knowing in its depiction of certain segments of New York (especially the world of publishing), but, unlike his best-known novels, it’s rarely dazzling.
PanBookforumI find it admirable that Sittenfeld adheres to Austen’s un-PC insistence that not all people are equally deserving or interesting. If only she did so a little more artfully! The comparisons that adaptations invite are particularly damaging to Sittenfeld, whose writing tends toward flatness. Her sentences possess little in the way of nuance or playfulness; they convey information, that is all ... The problem with Sittenfeld’s decision to make her Liz so wholly innocuous, without any edge that might make readers feel intimidated, is not that she is unfaithful to Austen. The reason to regret the change is that it results in a much duller book.