RaveThe Guardian (UK)... a salacious romp ... If Yvonne’s navigation of pompous hostesses and kinky suitors reads like an enthrallingly lurid tell-all, White might even be said to have gifted his narrator with a queer critical eye for blue-blooded hypocrisies ... White shrewdly traces the repercussions of their choices across the decades. At once in thrall to the shimmering artifice of glamour yet also incisive about the tragedy of human existence, A Saint from Texas is a worldly-wise delight.
MixedThe Guardian (UK)Divided simply into sections that cover each day of this week-long get-together, the storytelling is a torrent of complicated behavioural minutiae ... In its protean perspective on family dynamics, Christmas in Austin is a bravura feat, but the plethora of incidental detail sometimes makes it come across less like a novel than a live documentary feed ... Momentous events do occur – loved ones die and relationships collapse – but their consequences are subsumed into the open-ended dramatic irresolution. Spending time with the Essingers is at once a pleasure and a chore – and in that sense Markovits’s novel has persuasively recreated the kind of family occasion to which most of us submit at this time of year.
RaveThe Observer (UK)The looping timeline of The Dutch House deepens the emotional charge of its family drama ... The melancholy realism with which Patchett draws out the unrealised potential of her characters feels downright un-American, yet her storytelling is leavened by moments of grace and reconciliation. Both victory and defeat, after all, peter out to nothing in the end. Indelibly poignant in its long unspooling perspective on family life, The Dutch House brilliantly captures how time undoes all certainties.
PositiveThe Guardian... crammed with acutely observed scenes that place reproduction within an intricate web of class, gender and race ... While such social ambiguities are finely etched, the plot dithers even after Jane gets to grips with Mae’s connivance. It may be unfair, however, to chastise Ramos for lacking the grand guignol audacity of Atwood, if her story is pointed much closer to home ... doesn’t present a full-bore dystopia so much as occupy an uncomfortable space between now and the near future: if such an ultra-elite surrogacy venture doesn’t exist already, it surely will soon. In fact, the villain in The Farm is arguably unfettered capitalism.
PositiveThe Guardian\"... vivid ... Memories of the Future is narrated with a crisp, professorial tone, which risks coming across more like cultural critique than fiction ... If [the book\'s obsessions sound] like thesis fodder, Hustvedt has the imaginative mastery to encase complex ideas in the flesh and blood needed to render them visceral.\
MixedThe Observer\"Eggers’s stylistic genius remains in evidence: the plot seems powered by Four’s functionalism, but his concise description of the terrain sometimes emits a lovely shimmer, as if reflecting Nine’s sense of wonder ... Still, The Parade’s whiplash ending raises a question: who exactly is this parable supposed to enlighten? Few can have remained gung-ho about wading into foreign civil wars since the geopolitical quagmires of Bosnia and Afghanistan. So while Eggers is correct to zero in on unforeseen repercussions, his warning comes 20 years too late. Moreover, even the doughtiest non-interventionist may turn the final page only to wonder how, in the absence of help from outside agencies, can a highway across a poor, war-ravaged nation get built? Scarcely longer than a novella, Eggers’s story is too cramped to allow such an exploration of ideas ... The Parade conjures a dystopian near-future curiously behind the times. Even if Eggers’s heart is in the right place, his book has few answers for a world on the brink.\
PositiveThe ObserverIn her fourth novel, The Heavens, the genre-defying American author Sandra Newman conjures one of the most captivating dreamers in fiction ... Newman uses her off-kilter time-slipping plot to jump into the existential conundrums of love: what can we do when our beloved goes somewhere in their minds we cannot follow, what if romance is a dream-like figment that spoils real life by rendering it a poor shadow, why put so much store in love when it proves no match for the entropy of time? As The Heavens shows so movingly, there are no real answers to such questions, whether in our own time or any other.
PositiveThe GuardianAt least Cohen is a phenomenal thinker whatever the theme whatever the subject: granular, acrobatic, startling ... Although Cohen here flaunts a next-level virtuosity across countless fields of expertise, the more memorable pieces are also the most straightforward in form. The journalistic long reads are first-rate ... His thinkpieces on American politics are whip-sharp ... he also has an amiable sideline in fanboy riffs on legends such as Aretha Franklin and John Zorn ... There are some jejune attempts at philosophical aperçu ... It is ironic that the whirligig of subjects here...risks driving the reader to distraction. Upon rejoining his theme, however, Cohen tackles the meta-problem of attention with the fervor of a man who knows the solution. Insisting that \'uniquely among the mental maladies, distraction can be reversed,\' he veers towards Buddhist practice as a technique for marshalling attention ... Cohen’s diagnosis that fragmented attention is linked to our sociopolitical malaise rings true, but his own narrative evinces the difficulty of dispensing a remedy. Given Cohen is such a cliche-phobic stylist, it is regrettable that one of the hoariest of old saws springs to mind: Physician, heal thyself.
RaveThe Guardian...a powerful lament for the American dream ... Barbara Kingsolver has proved herself a supreme craftsperson over the past three decades. She possesses a knack for ingenious metaphors that encapsulate the social questions at the heart of her stories ... She powerfully evokes the eeriness of living through times of social turmoil ... [a] striking and impressive presentation of family life ... As a work of socially engaged fiction, Unsheltered makes a decent case for escapism.
RaveThe GuardianThe novel garners the doomy sonority of Greek tragedy, even though the various parts are uneven ... But The Immortalists remains a boundlessly moving inquisition into mortality, grief and passion ... it conjures characters with such dimension that you mourn them too, a magic rare enough to leave one astonished.
MixedThe GuardianKing is still roused by battles between good and evil, and we often sense a great writer duking it out with a corny hack within the same book. On this occasion, the hack wins on points...[but] when he clambers out of his rut of undemanding retreads, King shows he is still capable of keeping it fresh.