RaveNew York Journal of BooksDespite all these disparate parts, After Sappho is a brilliantly constructed, complex, and fascinating hybrid text ... After Sappho is a women’s text in that it is non-linear, non-hierarchical, multi-voiced, innovative, and highly creative and original. In the fragment on the oft referenced and revered Orlando by Virginia Woolf, the narrator asserts: \'In fact no one could tell what was its genre, it was as mercurial in mood and ample in form as Orlando themselves.\' So too is After Sappho.
RaveThe New York Journal of Books... depicts both the exterior and interior; it is an exquisite piece of perfection. Through her poetic, yet precise prose, gorgeous details, and astute observations, Keegan creates a moving and stunning work ... There is not an egregious word, sentence, or snippet of dialogue in Foster. The prose is lyrical, yet concise and pitch perfect. While the narrator is young and naïve, the narrative is intentionally constructed so that everything that is filtered through her perspective is central to the story ... The girl’s attachment to her foster family develops and tension mounts until the devastating and magnificent ending ... a rare, beautiful, multi-faceted, shimmering, gem of a work—a gift.
RaveNew York Journal of Books... [a] highly impressive, smart, and sophisticated debut novel ... by no means the mere whining of an underpaid twenty-something-year-old Oxford literature graduate. Rather, looming over the narrative are the political, economic, and social upheavals in the UK, like Brexit, the downfall of Theresa May and the rise of Boris Johnson, and the Grenfell tower tragedy ... The narrator of Three Rooms is sharp, wry, ironic, and, as an outsider of sorts, an astute observer of her environment ... beautifully crafted and well-written. While the narrator’s prose is often crisp and ironic, it occasionally turns lyrical and serious, particularly toward the end of the novel. Although the narrative can be funny and biting, it is also deeply serious.
PositiveNew York Journal of BooksSabina Murray’s novel The Human Zoo deftly interweaves a narrative of a woman’s search for identity, a historical, cultural, and political tale of Filipino society, and a tension-filled, action-packed story of life in contemporary Philippines under the regime of a dictator. The fusion of these three genres makes for an engaging, interesting, and informative novel ... The narration is clear and straightforward, and often funny ... The novel concludes with high drama involving murders, an escape, and political intrigue.
Caleb Azumah Nelson
MixedNew York Journal of BooksOpen Water, is about the pain, challenges, and necessity for a Black man to find his voice, be seen, create art, and speak his truth. Nelson’s uneven work is both mature and immature, original and cliched, too much and too little on the compelling and urgent topic of a Black man’s experiences in contemporary London ... Interwoven with the narrator’s daily experiences are reflections on his parents, brother, and grandmother in Ghana, traumatic memories of and encounters with unjust assaults on Black people, and references to art, music, literature, and film ... The narrator’s construction of his documentary as well as Nelson’s creation of his novel give form to Black bodies and voices. Stylistically Open Water moves between poetry and prose ... For the most part, the mix of poetry and prose works. However, in places, the narrative is repetitive, lapses into cliché, is overwrought, too referential, and lacking in subtlety ... While unpolished in places, Open Water is the work of a talented and promising young writer. Caleb Azumah Nelson creatively and insightfully gives voice to the pain and trauma of a Black man’s existence in the UK. Sadly, his painful and relevant narrative mirrors what has become an all-too commonplace experience for a Black man in the US.
RaveNew York Journal of Books... [a] brilliant, beautifully-crafted short story collection ... Krauss’ pithy, perfectly pitched, precise prose, which she conveys through first-person female and male narrators as well as third-person narrators, proffers profound, sometimes wry or funny observations about what it means to be human ... Krauss is a keen observer of human nature, speech, and of the environments she depicts ... With exceptional precision, concision, grace, wisdom, and insight Nicole Krauss creates a magnificent collection of stories that explore what the narrator effectively asks her son in the last lines of the final tale: Who will you be?
PositiveThe New York Journal of BooksPopkey deftly captures a particular group of women’s voices and confessions through her unnamed narrator’s \'conversations\' with other women ... While Topics of Conversation is generally high-brow, primarily narrated by a woman who was in a PhD program in English, Pokey seamlessly constructs and differentiates her various speakers. For instance, Artemisia comes across as a worldly, more experienced psychoanalyst; the narrator’s mother is credible as a cheerful alcoholic from Los Angeles; and her academic friends are believable with their cigarette smoking, jargon-spouting, and name-dropping ... a smart, well-articulated and -designed novel. Popkey gives credence to women’s experiences—the good, the bad, and the ugly—by creating credible narrators who tell their stories.
RaveThe New York Journal of BooksJenny Offill may very well have chosen the perfect title for her novel Weather. For her book, which lacks much of a traditional plot, is about climate change, the mood or atmosphere of the world at large, and the narrator’s smaller world, namely her family and friends. The weather of the novel covers both the profound and mundane. But the pervasive mood is that of anxiety, sprinkled with some drops of humor ... The stream of consciousness narrative is deliberately and cleverly constructed ... Although to some degree, Weather preys on many of our present-day anxieties and concerns, it is not utterly without hope or humor. In fact, Offill’s dry wit diffuses some of the tension in her novel and makes its painful subject matter bearable. Weather is a well-crafted, profound, unsettling, and deeply resonant work.
RaveNew York Journal of BooksMolly Antopol’s debut story collection, is powerful, well written, thought provoking, and very impressive. Because of the depth of character development in the stories, many of Antopol’s tales possess the richness of a novel, but are also still effective, beautifully constructed short stories that cohere well as a collection ...Molly Antopol is an astute, insightful observer of human relationships, which is evidenced in her psychologically complex, well-developed characters and narrators. She is particularly adept at illustrating grief and loss ... Each story stands on it own but also ties in thematically with the rest of the tales in the collection. There isn’t a single mediocre or even lesser story in the bunch.
RaveNew York Journal of Books...his story is utterly engrossing, funny, at times, suspenseful, flawlessly constructed, moving, and absolutely brilliant ... Although The Nickel Boys clearly relates the horrors that proliferate at Nickel Academy, the narrative is not that graphic; it is never prurient or cringe-inducing, and yet it exposes, can be shocking, suspenseful, and is completely riveting ... The narrator’s wry tone and direct, crisp prose, much like that of Whitehead’s previous novel The Underground Railroad, perfectly balance entertainment and fabulous storytelling with critique and a pointed indictment of racism, and the justice and education systems in America ... The Nickel Boys is a complex, multi-layered work. It is a suspenseful page-turner and a great story ... exceptional.
MixedNew York Journal of BooksCecelia Ahern’s collection of short stories titled, Roar, couldn’t be better timed ... Unfortunately, despite its relevant and pressing subject, Roar disappoints; the collection is largely saccharine and lacks subtlety and nuance ... Many of the stories in Roar have clever, catchy opening paragraphs and are humorous at times ... Although most of the stories in Roar get off to good starts, many rely too heavily on clichés, overused tropes, and obvious symbolism ... The endings of far too many stories in Roar are tied up much too neatly and are moralistic and corny ... Roar is a great idea not very well executed.
MixedThe New York Journal of BooksWhile amusing, in contrast to its literary forefathers, lacks substance ... Kimberling’s prose is clean, crisp, and full of sharp one-liners and observations ... The novel’s cast of two-dimensional characters which include Amanda, Elliott’s girlfriend, Valerie, an American expat and friend and fling of the narrator, Mr. Cimarron, an artist of sorts, and a few of Elliott’s students are all caricatures who engage in witty, perfectly phrased and timed banter ... While Goulash points out or pokes fun at the often-noted growing pains of the post-Soviet era in the Czech Republic and even lightly mocks the narrator’s small hometown in Indiana, it is unclear to what end. Much of the narrator’s observations are amusing but unlike, say, the narrator of Gessen’s A Terrible Country, the narrator learns nothing about himself or the country he’s visiting or contributes any insights about politics, culture, Prague, Eastern Europe, expats, slackers, or much else. Goulash is a fun read, but to quote Gertrude Stein, out of context, \'there’s no there there.\'
MixedThe New York Journal of BooksThe Burning Girl by Claire Messud relates the story of a close childhood friendship between Julia and Cassie...a skilled portrayal of a tight, childhood, female bond and its intersection with school and family life ...although Messud constructs a good, well-written tale, it feels all too familiar; we’ve heard the story many times before ... Claire Messud is undoubtedly a deeply skilled writer and storyteller ...a competent addition to the girl friendship novels, coming-of-age stories, and reminiscences of lost youth and friendship, but it is not poignant, powerful, or memorable enough for such a genre and such a story.