RaveThe Irish Times (IRE)Letters From Tove, a wonderful collection of letters written by the Finnish artist and writer Tove Jansson is full of such examples of casual brilliance and beauty; Sarah Death’s seemingly effortless translation preserves the clear-eyed grace and humour that was a hallmark of Jansson’s writing, from her beloved Moomins stories to her adult fiction ... Although just a little more biographical detail might have been helpful at times...the book is remarkably coherent, with the overlapping correspondences offering a rounded picture of Jansson’s life and relationships ... The book also offers a fascinating and often moving glimpse into the world of queer women in mid-century Finland ... This collection presents us with that bouquet in all its vivid freshness, and offers readers the privilege of spending time inside an intelligent, creative, curious, generous, funny, unsentimental mind. Few books have given me as much pure pleasure this year.
RaveThe Irish Times (UK)... insightful and lively ... Finding explicit similarities between an author’s work and their life can feel forced, but Fitzsimons makes extensive and excellent use of Nesbit’s fiction and poetry, and in doing so she illuminates both Nesbit’s work and her life. At times the narrative trembles under the sheer weight of names, though that isn’t the biographer’s fault; so many friends and potential lovers came in and out of Nesbit’s highly sociable life that it can be hard for the reader to keep track of them all ... Like all the best literary biographies, this highly readable book will send readers back to that writing.
RaveThe Times (UK)There’s something inherently uncanny about anything or anyone that is almost human but not quite. It’s this uncanniness that runs through Dublin-based author Sue Rainsford’s first novel Follow Me To Ground, a wildly imaginative exploration of desire, fear and what it means to be a person ... The concept of the Ground, with its uncanny guardians and the people who visit them, is a brilliantly original and unsettling one, illuminated by Rainsford’s sparsely lyrical prose ... Rainsford is particularly good at conveying a sense of unhuman personhood. Ada doesn’t think or feel like a human being, but does think and feel strongly, aware of her own difference and isolation ... Her determination to control her own destiny is both beautiful and terrifying, two words that also describe this promising literary debut.
RaveThe Irish Times...both a page-turning thriller and a thoughtful, moving exploration of what it meant to be a woman and an artist in the 19th century ... Perfectly paced and richly atmospheric, Doll Factory is an incredibly assured debut novel. Writing about visual art isn’t always easy to do well, but Macneal writes about her real and fictional artists and their work so evocatively that the reader not only sees the vivid colours in their palettes, but understands their importance to the pre-Raphaelites ... Iris has her own distinct, original artistic vision, and throughout the novel Macneal explores, with sensitivity and insight, how a woman can develop that vision and be truly seen as an individual in a world where her opportunities are curtailed ... I literally couldn’t put it down for the final breathtakingly tense 70 pages. The Doll Factory is emotionally and intellectually engaging with an utterly gripping plot. In a word that the pre-Raphaelites would appreciate, it’s a stunner.
RaveThe Times (UK)In this brilliant collection of short fiction, Erskine uncovers the stories that take place behind closed doors and closed faces, and in the process asks how well we can ever know or connect to each other ... their subjects and characters feel both universal and specific ... Erskine’s characters and their worlds are acutely, brilliantly observed ... Erskine writes about her characters without sentiment but with compassion and, perhaps most importantly, with a sense of the absurd that finds humour in the darkest of places ... The stories in Sweet Home are often very funny, even when they unsettle ... All these people have imagined ideal relationships that can never really exist, created worlds that no one outside themselves can ever know or understand. In Wendy Erskine’s world, these sweet homes contain multitudes.
RaveThe Irish Times (IRELAND)... delicious ... an eloquent and unashamed portrait of giddy young female hedonism ... Not all of the girls’ decisions are sensible or even safe; Gilbert doesn’t pretend that every hedonistic act is a good idea. But crucially, Vivian and Celia are not destroyed by their sexual adventures ... Gilbert has said that, in these troubled political times, she wanted to write a book \'that would go down like a champagne cocktail\'. And that’s just what she’s done. City of Girls is enormously entertaining from beginning to end, with dialogue that sparkles and snaps with the vitality and sexual energy of a 1930s pre-code movie ... his frothy delight delivers a real kick beneath the bubbles, and this is what makes City of Girls so effective. Just when you think you’re simply reading a fun book about 1940s Broadway life, Gilbert hits you with an emotional depth charge, all the more powerful for being wrapped up in spangles and greasepaint ... Frivolous and profound in equal measure, this humane and remarkably generous book is an antidote to that shame.
RaveThe Irish TimesIt’s a cliché to describe a true-life spy story as being as gripping as any thriller, but it really is the case here. Purnell has done a huge amount of research for this superb biography ... But the narrative wears this research lightly, as Purnell nimbly takes the reader through Hall’s complicated manoeuvres all over central France and beyond. And in doing so, she paints a rounded portrait of a complicated, resourceful, determined and above all brave woman ... Purnell also gives readers vivid pictures of Hall’s fascinating associates ... While Purnell pays rightful homage to the deeply moving bravery of Hall and her comrades, she is at pains not to romanticise their often murky, gruelling world.
RaveThe Irish Times\"... superb ... Toby is a particularly fascinating unreliable narrator, not simply because the reader can’t trust him, but because he can’t trust himself ... As ever with French’s books, the narrative is always driven by the characters rather than the exigencies of a traditional crime plot, and after Toby’s horrific attack, the author delves deep into its effects on both his own psyche and his relationships as his brain and body slowly heal. It’s a testament to her skill as a writer that the part of the book that documents Toby’s slow path towards something like the truth, about the crime and himself is just as compelling as the more overtly dramatic sections ... [French\'s] dialogue has always been superb; she has a perfect ear for the way real people, in particular real Irish people, actually speak, and even her most harrowing books are leavened by wit ... [This book is] a reminder, especially to those who still dismiss crime fiction as a cheap thrill, that French is one of this country’s very best novelists.\