RaveThe Toronto Star (CAN)ustad proves himself here to be a masterful storyteller, unfolding character, plot, suspense, pathos, bathos and half a dozen other Greek nouns so meticulously that you’re not going to want to put this book down ... Though he had some extraordinary abilities and drives, as most people do, Shetler’s depth was the kind we all have, the profundity every human life creates and, in putting so much work into documenting it, Rustad’s done us the favour of celebrating our complex muddles of good and bad and stupid and smart ... His notes on sources at the end of the book run to 10 pages and not one of them is superfluous. It’s like he’s held up a crystal dodecahedron for us to see how many ways Shetler could be reflected in the eyes of others ... like any good book, and this is a very good book, it provides no real answers, no closure, no meaning. It’s just life, as seen through the lens of one of its sadder stories.
PositiveToronto Star (CAN)The scenes of our protagonist’s Toronto life in her Annex home, though detailed and honest and true, never quite weave themselves in to that other narrative, in Sarajevo and The Hague, nor achieve sufficient density to be its counterweight. And it can seem at times that the author’s been overwhelmed by her own material, pushing her language in poetic and aphoristic directions that mostly don’t work with the rawness of the story she has to tell. But—and this is one of the biggest \'buts\' I’ve ever written into a book review—you need to read this book ... Before reading this book, readers may or may not understand the role rape has always played in war, and the specific use to which it’s put in genocidal wars. But after reading this book, they will feel it. And once they feel it, they may come closer to understanding, if they didn’t already, that though someone killed in a war leaves a crater, ending stories and stopping others from ever being written, rape is poison that continues to spread long after ... You’ll probably get pissed off at this book, especially the ending. And it’s a book about rape and trauma and the possibility that justice is either impossible or impotent even when it’s achieved, so you won’t be happier for having read it, but—and I think I’m right about this—you’ll be better for it.
Hallgrímur Helgason, Trans. by Brian FitzGibbon
RaveThe Toronto StarOld Hera Bjornsson is dying, and she can’t wait. She’s made herself an appointment at the crematorium for the 14th, and she doesn’t want to miss it. She’s looking forward to being, as the book’s title suggests, Woman at 1,000 Degrees ...we learn from what she tells us she’s done, and how she tells us, that this is a woman who refuses to be redacted or reduced to the role of daughter, wife, mother, victim, whore, or criminal ...This is a profoundly, triumphantly feminist book, a fact that, depending on your view of such things, may or may not be undercut by the fact that it’s written by a man ...Helgason’s story could be seen as a riff on the Wife of Bath’s Tale, without the stuff about King Arthur, and if she hadn’t been so concerned with giving her story a moral. Helgason can write beautifully, like his Icelandic contemporary, Sjon, and he can be perfectly dark and crass, like his other mononymic contemporary, the cartoonist Dagsson. But unlike either, he can do both at once, often on the same page.
PanThe Toronto StarIt’s dire stuff, well warranted, and in the hands of Salman Rushdie or António Lobo Antunes, it might have been a powerful book. Revenge on a nation that hurt you is best served cold, but Boyne here is a hot mess, unable to get past the lather of personal affront, and the result is a caricature, a satire without the laughs, villains without humanity, heroes whose primary quality is merely that they are the only fully drawn characters in the book.
RaveThe Toronto Star...the cynosure of the story this book raises to the level of poet Siegfried Sassoon’s First World War and writer Primo Levi’s Holocaust is the access and influence a group of privileged white men demanded and got in the medical and pharmaceutical corridors of power ... The reporting and research that made this book are exquisite, the scenes and people painted test the limits of what’s bearable ... France tells a story that has lessons for us about the power of empathy over sympathy, and the degree to which unreasonable people can twist even the most powerful bureaucracies and governments into useful shapes.