MixedThe GuardianThe crime detection is mixed in with the social satire of modern family life and middle-class motherhood ... It is a courageous attempt at generic hybridity on Healey’s part and the two elements of the book are, by turns, intriguing and entertaining. But blended together the effect is odd and inconsistent, veering from Jen’s gothic fantasies of what might have happened to Lana, to flipness of tone and comic dialogue ... The satire is the stronger component of the two: Healey’s middle-class family is drawn with canny-eyed clarity ... The most compelling aspect of the novel, though, is the painful pathos in Jen and Lana’s relationship ... In the end, it is this interpersonal drama and not the clever narrative tics that Healey employs, nor the generic innovation, that gives the novel its heart.
MixedThe Financial TimesShafak presents so many of the current, clashing arguments on the place of women in Islam through their long, heated debates that she also runs the risk of turning these characters into vehicles for thought rather than living, breathing people ... Shafak excels at satirising contemporary Istanbul’s spoilt, self-satisfied bourgeoisie. The tone of these chapters is blackly comic and highly entertaining ... Yet Azur’s charisma eludes the reader and he seems like a cardboard cut-out of the controversial genius ... Both narratives eventually take on their own urgencies but too much happens too late ... Despite these dissonances, Three Daughters of Eve is an intelligent, fierce and beguiling read that makes complicated theological questions readable and relevant.
RaveThe Financial TimesLouise Erdrich’s 16th novel follows its own, carefully imagined rules but also obliquely refers to the state of America today … Erdrich’s narrative is not derivative or pulpy but its scenes are fast, visual, action-packed, perfect for film. And Cedar, like Sarah, is angry, fugitive, both powerless and brave, and ultimately a hero-mother in this chilling book, which is at once a dystopia and a state-of-the-nation novel.
PositiveThe Financial TimesWhile some in this collection of 17 stories are less successful than others, he gains his stride and writes for a certain audience — the kind who might turn up to see his films — about family, failed romances and life’s foibles, with a few futuristic fantasies thrown in. He has particular aptitude for writing dialogue, perhaps unsurprisingly, and a wry turn of phrase that blooms at times into rollicking repartee … It is clear that Hanks is aiming for entertainment and whimsy over any attempt at high literary style. And on those terms, these stories are a hit.
PositiveThe Financial Times...in The Golden House, his 14th, unruly but exuberant novel, Rushdie recasts his subject in contemporary America ... Like Midnight’s Children, The Golden House is divided into three books, beginning with Obama-era optimism and ending with the election of a man never named as Trump but referred to as 'the Joker' ... This book has a glut of stories, sub-stories, parenthetical riffs, mini-treatises and references within references to politics, etymology, film history, literature, popular culture ...begins a meta-narrative that becomes increasingly strained and is the one great irritation of the novel... Much of the success of The Golden House, in fact, lies in its humour and in the vigour of its storytelling.
RaveThe GuardianThe Wilkinsons’ liberal do-good impulses are not openly mocked, but they are critiqued by Ko. Their hope – well meaning but condescending – is to rehabilitate 'Daniel' into middle-class life ... The Leavers has won praise in the US, and its underlying themes of displacement and deportation carry deep and desperately urgent resonances far beyond America, and fiction. Ko movingly captures Polly and Deming’s liminal presence in the immigrant community, on the margins of society in overcrowded apartments, in nail parlours and factories, who are always there yet invisible to the rest of us.
Haruki Murakami, Trans. by Philip Gabriel & Ted Goossen
PositiveThe Financial TimesMurakami writes of complex things with his usual beguiling simplicity — the same seeming naivety found in the Beatles songs that are so often his reference points. The stories read like dirges for 'all the lonely people' but they are strangely invigorating to read. The only straightforwardly happy story is an imaginative inversion of Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis, in which a beetle-like insect wakes up, turned into a man...It is Murakami at his whimsical, romantic best, and however beautifully rendered the loneliness in the rest of the collection, one wishes, in the end, for a little bit more of this.
Min Jin Lee
PositiveThe Financial TimesThe story that follows is a deeply wrenching one of migration, circling around themes of in-between identities, belonging and acceptance. The latter is never granted for Sunja’s family: the Korean in Japan remains a perpetual outsider in Pachinko ... We never feel history being spoon-fed to us: it is wholly absorbed into character and story, which is no mean feat for a novel covering almost a century of history ... Pachinko tells many people’s stories and deftly brings its large ensemble of characters alive. Occasionally the plot is jarred by too-neat twists, such as the convenient return of Sunja’s lover, announced on the same page as the death of her husband. The biggest off-note, though, is Lee’s treatment of Noa, who is abruptly discarded in a sudden death, his children’s stories left dangling.
RaveThe Financial TimesIt sets out to unsettle the reader with this purpose from the very first page. The effect is both awful and spectacular. Its achievement is all the greater as the author of this markedly mature debut is just 28 years old ... Like Ian McEwan in On Chesil Beach, Arudpragasam brings genuine pathos to the couple’s failure to connect, and he is just as good at writing about bad sex as McEwan ... a strange, profound, mini-masterpiece of a novel. Arudpragasam writes with control, clarity and a terrible beauty that acknowledges the world’s grandeur in the midst of darkness.
MixedThe Financial TimesAnam comes at history — big and small — from several directions, but these jostling elements create a sprawling, scattered effect, however adept Anam is at bringing them to a final, tidy close. The love story at its centre is not entirely convincing, either ... The novel comes most alive as a domestic story, raising questions around family and belonging.