PositiveThe Guardian (UK)Lionel Shriver’s scabrously funny 15th novel presents a dyspeptic view of people in thrall to exercise ... It’s interesting that given her own obsessive exercise regimen, Shriver is prepared to admit to being part of the problem. The novel even goes so far as to posit a contemporary definition of what the word \'problematic\' has come to mean: \'It’s, like, a great big giant word for everything that’s super bad.\' Shriver’s contentious views on diversity are no secret ... The Motion of the Body Through Space is proof, if it were needed, that Shriver’s natural response to an open wound is to pour on more salt ... Shriver’s essential bugbear is that, taken to extremes, the concept of cultural appropriation prohibits the act of fiction writing itself ... The grand irony of course is that The Motion of the Body Through Space is a novel drawn from the first-hand experience of a writer who monitors her frequency of star jumps and has been on the receiving end of a pasting for her views on diversity. Certainly it’s problematic - but few authors can be as entertainingly problematic as Shriver.
PositiveThe Guardian (UK)Correspondents is a hefty, multi-generational saga ... Nabil is a subtly drawn and engaging character who is condemned, like thousands of similar well-educated, middle-class Iraqis, to almost unendurable tragedy. The moral centre of the novel, however, is the manifestly flawed Rita, whose narrative arc in many respects mirrors that of the US invasion itself, founded on an aggressively idealistic yet ultimately false set of assumptions about a region and its people ... it’s clear that what Murphy understands best is the obsessive mindset of an unrepentant deadline-junkie[.]
PositiveThe Guardian (UK)Though The Confession does not extend as far into the past as her previous books, Burton deploys her characteristically piquant sense of period detail ... What one notices here, however, is a more free-flowing aspect to her prose, which is plainer and less obstructed by overworked passages than her earlier work ... The Confession perhaps lacks the dramatic thrust of The Muse and The Miniaturist; it is quite a slow build to the revelation promised by the title. But Burton is a writer fully in control of her craft as she employs the fundamental co-ordinates of a fairytale. Overall it stands as another understated triumph for the patient typist
PositiveThe Guardian... as compelling as it is expansive ... Perhaps inevitably, a plot so labyrinthine and loaded with conspiracy theories veers occasionally towards melodrama; yet there was no shortage of esteemed experts prepared to convince themselves and others that the Wacker daubs (none of which has survived) were the genuine article. Clark persuasively suggests that the paintings – masterpieces one moment, worthless the next – were simply a barometer of the inflationary chaos that beset Germany between the wars ... The novel’s historical authority is not entirely flawless ... But at the heart of the book lies a quest for authenticity that has a bearing on our own times ... In an age that has apparently lost faith in experts and verifiable sources of information, Clark’s fictionalisation of the Wacker affair stands as a salutary tale for the post-truth era.
PositiveThe GuardianAs a novel whose central themes are grief, separation and mental illness it would be very easy for the writing to become bogged down in self-pity. Yet Maurice Hannigan emerges as an engaging, compassionate creation who seems fully aware that he conforms to a stereotype ... There is a pleasing clarity to Griffin’s five-act structure, in which the successive libations give rise to five fully realised individual works of fiction.
PositiveThe Guardian\"The chapters detailing the death of Penelope are among the most moving and successfully realised, not least because they allow Zusak’s uniquely laconic and insinuating concept of death to stalk the narrative ... You could argue that Zusak has a tendency to overplay the theatrical illumination, as even the act of opening the fridge becomes a physical assault... But if The Book Thief was a novel that allowed Death to steal the show, its slightly chaotic, overlong, though brilliantly illuminated follow-up is affirmatively full of life.\
MixedThe Guardian\"Like Cold Mountain, Varina is a novel of flight and separation ... Yet there’s a disorienting unevenness to the narrative tone, in which Varina’s reminiscences, as told to Blake in the sanatorium, are interrupted by an omniscient voice in the present tense who refers to the protagonist as \'V\' when passing biographical judgment ... The non-chronological narrative becomes so complex that even Frazier seems to lose his place in it at times ... Above all, the novel inevitably lacks the big, box-of-tissues finale that provided Cold Mountain with its emotional heft, as few people are likely to be moved to weep for Varina or her cold-blooded, \'raptor-like\' husband. But perhaps this is not the time and place for romance. The significance of Frazier’s novel has less to do with its potential as Hollywood fodder than its clear-sighted depiction of culpable leaders in a divided America.\
PositiveThe GuardianIt's never clear who is searching for whom; but it captures the random terror and chaos of Year Zero and presents a credible portrait of Phnom Penh … Thien's observations of the ravaged country maintain a fine balance between lyricism and horror.
PanThe GuardianThe first two-thirds of the novel detail these characters' romantic and careerist manoeuvres; it is very capably done, were it not for the fact that Messud drops significant hints that it all amounts to so much rearranging of the deckchairs on the Titanic … The overall problem is not so much that the book lacks ambition as that its focus seems frustratingly narrow … The Emperor's Children is ostensibly a novel about identity and growth...This would be fine if Messud's book were a work of great stylistic mastery: yet the discovery that the emperor has no clothes seems a pretty tired old maxim itself.
RaveThe Guardian...in terms of conventional narrative development, very little happens ... The compensation for the reader is that these characters are brilliantly drawn ... Yet beneath the apparently placid surface, Drabble’s novel seethes with apocalyptic intent ... It would all be a bit much to take, were it not for the stoicism of Fran herself, a woman who chooses to live in a dodgy north London council block, secretly rather likes dining in Premier Inns and cannot refrain from watering pot plants in airport lounges and lavatories.
PositiveThe GuardianWinterson’s winter tales unfailingly succeed in their endeavour to leave you aglow ... Perhaps it’s inevitable that even the best Christmas offerings should include a certain amount of stocking-filler, and Winterson liberally recycles her earlier work where necessary ... Would it be too much to read Winterson’s Christmas collection as an attempt, finally, to make peace and come to terms with her past? The evidence is there in the inclusion of the recipe for her father’s favourite trifle.
PositiveThe GuardianYou can’t fault McInerney for lack of exuberance, though she has a tendency to treat paragraphs like pinball machines, firing off bold, extended metaphors and letting them ricochet down the page ... Such profligacy seems unnecessary when McInerney is equally capable of writing with great clarity and economy ... There is no question that McInerney has talent to burn; indeed, the book often gives the impression of her starting fires in order to reignite a plot that has run out of fuel. At its best, it finds the erstwhile Sweary Lady on bellicose form: an irrepressible volley of unrehearsed words from a brand new throat.
RaveThe GuardianO’Farrell’s seemingly effortless ability to give the mundane a metaphorical lift remains as sharp as ever ... That the novel should be so fully persuasive is down to O’Farrell’s recurrent theme – which is not so much how a person can unaccountably go missing as how swiftly and silently love may slip out of a relationship ... It is O’Farrell’s ability to recognise such moments, when they inevitably come, that makes her such a deft and compelling chronicler of human relationships.
PositiveThe GuardianRosoff animates these animals with a sense of personality that any dog-owner should recognise ... Jonathan is prone to cartoonish flights of fantasy that throw his breakdown on the day of the wedding into frightening relief. The only slight disappointment is that such exuberant invention is ultimately placed at the service of a sentimental, romcom resolution ... If Rosoff’s adult fiction turns out to be indivisible from her teenage fiction, it’s because she continues to patrol the perilously ill-defined border between the two.