RaveThe Wall Street Journal...a body of prose — travel books, mostly — radiant with his brilliance and unique experience but also with his exuberance and warmth ...his erudition and descriptive skill are balanced by simple likability — never, one feels, has so much riveting detail been so beautifully served up by such an irresistible person ... Like his travel books, it amounts largely to a gushing expression of pleasure in art, history, places and people, but it also gives glimpses of his battles with indolence and the toll they took ...Leigh Fermor’s letters are remarkably free of backbiting, bellyaching and other standard epistolary vices ... What’s more, to fully appreciate Leigh Fermor’s letters you need to be familiar with, or at least curious about, the circles he moved in ... Thanks to Mr. Sisman, readers everywhere can have (minus the furrowed brows and headaches) a similar experience, discovering how this wonderful man made sheets of stationery, like the pages of his incomparable travelogues, glow.
MixedThe Wall Street JournalIn the 20th century, it was successively occupied by three women who shaped it to their needs and used it to show off their status, their possessions or simply themselves. Judith Mackrell’s The Unfinished Palazzo is a biographical study of the trio ... Despite these limitations and small flaws, The Unfinished Palazzo is thoughtful, gracefully written and engaging ... Ms. Mackrell sidesteps this pitfall by focusing on one tiny part of the city. By book’s end, the complexly fated, much-altered Venier comes to seem a mirror of its occupants.
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalThe Glamour of Strangeness, a splendid book marred only by its awkward title ... To label the book a biographical study would be to scant its originality. Shifting fluently from subject to subject, teasing out patterns but not pressing them too hard, bringing his own experience to bear in illuminating ways, Mr. James has written a book that defies easy classification and is completely at ease in its skin.
MixedThe Wall Street JournalThat pattern, moreover, is a lovely thing. Exceptionally skillful at changing gears, Ms. Laing moves fluently between memoir, biography (not just of her principal cast but of a large supporting one), art criticism and the fruits of her immersion in 'loneliness studies.' Her phrasing has a chaste, lyric plangency apt to her topic. She writes about Darger and the rest with insight and empathy and about herself with a refreshing lack of exhibitionism...For all that, I regret to say I liked only the first two-thirds of the book. The different flavor of the last third stems from Ms. Laing’s wish to show that 'loneliness is . . . also political.'
Edmund de Waal
MixedThe Wall Street JournalPolyglot, steeped in art and literature and history, able to throw a pot and turn a sentence with equal skill, endlessly curious and stupendously diligent, aesthetic to his fingertips but also deeply moral, Mr. de Waal brings a lot to the table, and with The White Road he goes all in...The book itself is something vast out of porcelain, an eccentric, ungainly, one-off vessel, and it buckles like crazy. But crazy is the order of the day, so you understand.