PositiveiNews (UK)There is therefore something oddly satisfying about reading how someone now considered highly proficient in a language stumbled, toddler-like, through her first encounters with it...It is also satisfying to read as she gradually unlocks more of the language, reassuming her role as a beginner to explain not just what a word means but where she first encountered it and its range of associations ... This is not a run-of-the-mill, \'My Year Abroad\'-style narrative about falling in love with a place and its people. Barton does fall in love, but she is honest about the difficulties and confusion that beset her immersion ... Neither is this the story of a single, fleeting but transformative encounter. It is, in fact, the justification of Barton’s entire life ... You get the feeling she is trying to untangle the reasons for her own benefit as much as ours.
RaveiNews (UK)Emily Itami’s highly readable debut uses infidelity to consider motherhood, cultural pressure and the end of youth ... The writing is direct and shaded with black comedy ... the book can be polished off in a sitting, but it punches above its weight in its themes and the maturity with which it examines them, such as how love intertwines with or comes up against duty, and the feeling of having lost a part of oneself. Although she situates these ideas in a very specific social context, Itami manages to make them universal.
Ravei (UK)The book has an episodic quality, as new nuns enter the abbey and old ones die, yielding a rotating cast of supporting characters ... This fallacy of trying to see our own ideals in historical figures is one that Groff plays with throughout, making use of a third-person narrative voice which is able both to zoom in on Marie’s thoughts and comment from afar. Enchanting and intriguing, Matrix absorbs the reader into the medieval period without compelling them to depart entirely from the present.
PositiveiNews (UK)Her radical dedication to protecting her sisters feels at once modern and ancient. But Groff is quick to remind us that this is not the 21st century ... This fallacy of trying to see our own ideals in historical figures is one that Groff plays with throughout, making use of a third-person narrative voice which is able both to zoom in on Marie’s thoughts and comment from afar ... Enchanting and intriguing, Matrix absorbs the reader into the medieval period without compelling them to depart entirely from the present.
Kikuko Tsumura, trans. by Polly Barton
PositiveiNews (UK)Originally published in Japan on 2015, this translation by Polly Barton arrives at just the right time, when we are reconsidering what exactly work should be ... The book...is Kafka-like in the way it balances the patently ridiculous with the humdrum ... Tsumura goes beyond the office, to the difficulties of employment more generally. I have never read such relatable writing about the small stresses of working and how they can feel like disasters at the time ... The writing is straightforward and granular, often detailing tasks at length or unravelling the protagonist’s thought processes as she digests her latest office conundrum. It can occasionally feel exposition-heavy, though this does suit the character’s tendency to overthink and get too caught up in work ... It makes for an amusing read, as each fresh attempt to do her job and go home is undercut by another oddball character or strange turn of events. And while entertaining, it gently exposes the idea of work-life balance as a fantasy.
PositiveThe London Magazine...the strength of the book lies in the realness of the women. It is difficult at first to distinguish them all from each other, but Toews slowly fleshes out each person, including their flaws as well as their more admirable traits. It reminds us that the victims of horrendous crimes are not defined by their experiences. These women still bicker with each other, sing together, smoke and drink coffee. They survive ... It is a shame therefore that the dialogue has a couple of weaker moments. It drifts too many times into a hypothetical discussion of morality, as though the author is exploring the idea for herself on the page. Conversely the best moments are when we as readers feel like we have been allowed to eavesdrop on the conversation. These often occur when we are suddenly reminded of the severity of the attacks ... These visceral moments are jolting, but they bring the reader right into the scene, forcing us to contemplate what we would do in the same situation.