MixedThe Washington PostThe Victorian and the Romantic is at its best when it shows the messiness of trying to recapture the past ... Unfortunately, the book’s dual love story is less effective. The thread between Stevens and Gaskell is a thin one, and Stevens doesn’t turn the same critical lens on her memories of Max as on her attempts to reconstruct past lives. In the end, she turns away from being, as she says, a \'critic\' who takes a deeper look at herself and her relationship, in favor of becoming an \'author\'—of her own life and of fiction, presumably. Stevens’s author biography announces that she is writing a novel. It will be interesting to see what she creates when she leaves her musings on the process of writing—or not writing—behind.
Grace Dane Mazur
MixedThe Washington PostGrace Dane Mazur’s The Garden Party is an obvious homage to Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway ... It’s a bold move to invite comparisons with such a revered classic, and it doesn’t always work in The Garden Party’s favor, as the novel labors to contain the perspectives of a massive cast of characters ... ather than enriching the story’s texture, as Clarissa Dalloway’s memories did, though, Leah’s take us away from the party into her own world, pulling at the center of the novel and threatening to destabilize its elliptical orbit ... It is not so much that there are too many characters — and the author has provided a helpful seating chart with short descriptions of each person — but that we are invited into the consciousness of virtually every one of them ... by trying to expand a story of such compact design to contain 19 unique adult personalities (plus the fleeting perspectives of six children), Mazur has pushed those limits to the breaking point.
RaveThe Washington PostWetherall has written a luminous memoir that no one who reads it will soon forget ... It’s an arresting, absorbing read as we come to know Tyler the child, the youngest in her family and, it would seem, the most attuned to the unspoken and unspeakable ... Through it all, as Tyler struggles to carry on with the business of growing up, she conveys her exceptional yet familiar experiences in language that makes the reader stop and savor, or simply chuckle. She is witty and eloquent on the passing of childhood, describing how games and toys lose their power ... As in any good coming-of-age story, our heroine has left family behind and begun to make her home in the wider world. Now that she has done so, we eagerly await the new stories she will tell.
PanThe Washington PostTwo of the most fundamental merits of literature — that it can make us feel less alone in the world and can help us to develop the empathy required for humane living — go almost unnoticed ... The questions Denby raises (and fails to raise) are, as he suggests, vital to our future, regardless of how much they have been sidelined by those devices we all carry around in our pockets.