MixedNew Statesman (UK)Rooney has a rare talent for representing even the most cringe-inducing elements of contemporary experience in precise but understated prose ... Both Alice and Eileen...seem emotionally cooler than the characters of her earlier work, and do not radiate off the page with the same intensity. As a result, Beautiful World often lacks the dynamism that defined Rooney’s previous books ... The most vibrant sequences are the sex scenes, which are some of Rooney’s horniest and best. They are also shamelessly heterosexual ... It is here—in the private experiences that Rooney is so adept at capturing—that the novel is at its most vivid ... Although Rooney devotes more space than ever to big concepts such as religion, \'care ethics\' and identity politics, the book’s framework is not radical or even especially political. It is another novel about sex and friendship ... [a] moving but almost aggressively conventional ending, which is far neater than the ambiguous conclusions to Rooney’s other works. Like a 19th-century novel, it resolves problems material and emotional, and verges on the twee.
PositiveNew Statesman (UK)Clark entices us with the impossible: an \'unbiased,\' authorised biography of Sylvia Plath ... Red Comet is the kind of serious literary biography Plath has long deserved but, until now, not received. By drawing on an enormous body of research (including Harriet Rosenstein’s recently rediscovered work, and a fragmentary draft of an unfinished novel discovered by Clark), and layering frequently contradictory accounts, Clark assembles a fuller and more complicated picture of Plath than any biographer ... Clark takes Plath’s juvenilia far more seriously than her predecessors ... There are rare, shimmering moments where Clark succeeds in capturing Sylvia Plath. But she flickers. It’s only in Plath’s own work that we really see her.
PositiveNew StatesmanDaisy Johnson’s Sisters is a short, atmospheric horror novel full of strange sentences, claustrophobic rooms and distorted, converging bodies ... The novel will also seem familiar to readers of Johnson’s other work ... Johnson has cultivated a striking style with recurring images and themes: uncanny, watery landscapes; homes that turn against their inhabitants; animalistic characters with intense, almost incestuous family bonds; private, primitive languages; bodies that bloat and transform ... Her sentences are alert to texture, sound and smell, as well as physiological sensations harder to name ... The novel’s final, psychological twist veers towards the pulpy, and might leave some readers feeling cheated – but Johnson’s commitment to her characters, her interest in complex relationships and power dynamics, her atmospheric style and an unresolved, ambiguous ending elevate the novel beyond its plot.
PositiveNew Statesman... strikingly varied, with abrupt shifts in tone, voice and genre. Dystopian near-futures jostle with coolly ironic meta-fictions; playful extended metaphors sit alongside novelistic slices of vivid interior life ... inevitably, necessarily – the internet’s influence on our language, on our psyches, on our culture makes its way into most stories ... Not all Smith’s attempts to capture the present moment are successful ... Smith is at her best in a number of evocative, propulsive stories that spend time with compellingly flawed characters ... In her NYRB piece, Smith writes that she reads fiction for the kind of work \'that makes me feel – against all empirical evidence to the contrary – that what I am reading is, fictionally speaking, true.\' In the best stories in Grand Union, she pulls off this trick with grace and charm.
Bret Easton Ellis
PanThe Guardian\"... White, a collection of eight essays that respond to contemporary culture, has all the sound, fury and insignificance of a misguided rant posted at 3am. Except, inexplicably, it has been given the dignity of print publication ... Ellis seems to find [his] questions original, profound and scary, but they read as narcissistic, reactionary and boring ... \'Maybe when you’re roiling in childish rage, the first thing you lose is judgement, and then comes common sense,\' Ellis writes at the close of White, supposedly in reference to the \'constant shrieking\' of the left. Maybe that’s also how we ended up with such a nonsensical, vapid book, written by a man so furiously obsessed with his right to speak that he forgets to say anything at all.\