RaveToronto Star (CAN)A fever dream that whirs together homicide statistics from 2016 with an array of outlandish science fiction tropes. An allegory about the mutability of all things. An unsettling meditation on the 21st century’s strange reality. An apocalyptic phantasmagoria where bizarre kaiju roam the lands and wreak havoc. A lyrical treatise on volcanoes as metaphors. A wild ride ... Stupendous ... The unfettered abundance, uniqueness and irreducibility of Volcano will likely encourage as many interpretations as the book has readers ... Stintzi’s kaiju creatures are anything but run of the mill ... My Volcano is gripping, of course. Monsters, time travel and super-volcanoes seldom fail to impress. Stintzi juggles seriously unhinged plot elements with an impressive verve, but the thoughtfulness of the characters...as the world they know faces unprecedented crisis is an abiding pleasure.
PanToronto Star (CAN)Across 18 chapters The Swells evolves as a novel at odds with itself. A confection with hopes of providing meaty sustenance, the fourth novel of Montrealer Will Aitken...can’t fulfil disparate aims. The story’s initial—and principal—mode is whimsical comedy that could easily be called Wildean (after Oscar). It’s frivolous and camp and hyperbolic ... The amusing proceedings veer between glib and vapid; verbal exchanges trade in wit, sophisticated ennui and barbed innuendo. Not developed much beyond their ludicrous names, Aitken’s \'hyper-privileged\' characters stick to facile conversations and blithely accept the pecking order ... [then] a rhetorical about-face ... Aitken writes his characters as silly and, well, farcical. Even the deepest, Briony, develops but remains a comical figure. As such, they’re out of place as beaten slaves in a labour camp. And as gossamer things, they can’t support the weight of the story’s new sobriety.
RaveToronto Star (CAN)With a capable hand and wry voice, Fu...chronicles bizarre events and dystopian realities. As they summon disturbing signs and wonders, the stories invite readers into out-of-left-field portraits—of marriage, childhood, grief, and our glum zeitgeist—that delight, provoke and entertain ... Thoughtful, inventive, and clever, Fu’s Monsters can also provide a balm for anxious pandemic states of mind. Things could be worse, the impressive collection reminds us.
PositiveThe Toronto Star (CAN)A heartfelt comedy whose accomplished breeziness nevertheless portrays a complex protagonist going through a momentous season of mid-life growing pains ... Ashenburg ratchets up the novel’s farcical elements while simultaneously meditating on forgiveness and moral growth. Balancing silly and laugh-aloud with sobering, pensive and emotionally gratifying is no small feat, and yet Ashenburg writes with the sure-footedness of a lifetime reader.
MixedToronto Star (CAN)The opening pages of Colvin’s Afric[a]ville provide an immediately absorbing introduction to a long-lost community whose houses were eventually torn down in the 1960s to make way for a bridge. His saga, set in Nova Scotia, Quebec and a handful of southern American states, zooms in on the ’50, ‘60s and ’80s before an emotional, satisfying conclusion in 1992. Despite potential set-piece locations such as mid-century Birmingham, Ala., Colvin maintains a focus on romantic and familial relationships—marriage, infidelity, parenting and, frequently, parent-child and extended family disputes ... Colvin’s saga falters: clunky historical exposition, overly abundant minutia, perplexing and unsatisfying plot tangents, and, overall, thematic developments that come and go. Even the awkward transitions...suggest an ambitious book in need of another round of revisions.
RaveThe RumpusDissolution and encroaching death lurk just beneath—or within—her every smart-ass remark ... As the voice of the novel, Yoli is captivating ... Though Toews depicts both Yoli and Elf as burdened and damaged by past events, and conscious of the chasm left by their absent loved ones, she also gestures at their striving for happiness and whatever pleasures life offers them. Realistic and deeply sad, the ending captures scenes of recovery and endurance with striking fidelity.
RaveThe StarChariandy’s often elegiac tone and stately but spare prose establish a compelling melancholic mood ... Just placed on the Giller Prize longlist, Chariandy’s revisitation of familiar territory pays off with its singular observations and insights. A novel with sentences to savour, Brother also rewards an unhurried reader with a poetic vision that while sad is also lovely.
PositiveToronto Star...the engagements are fascinating in a case-study kind of way ... Recalling the sado-masochistic relationships for which the early fiction of Mary Gaitskill and Barbara Gowdy drew much praise, the discomfiting scenes showcase Robertson’s skill at exploring interpersonal dynamics. At the same time, though, the overall plot draws attention to a story with a less than sure-footed attention to momentum and purpose, especially as they connect to the subdued and pensive woman reminiscing about them four decades later.
MixedThe Toronto StarI felt qualified admiration for Hollinghurst’s luxuriant descriptions of moods, rooms, art objects, and social nuances of queer past times, but listlessness too. Across four sections moving from 1940s Oxford to mid-90s London, becoming immersed in the lives of his numerous characters (or moved by them) rarely occurred. Hollinghurst chronicles an arty, privileged network of friends and lovers ... a sobering reminder about conformity and prices paid during inequitable eras.
PositiveThe Toronto StarAn engrossing throwback and clever revival of the Victorian sensation novel (a.k.a. the shilling shocker), Price’s darkly feverish page-turner is buoyed by inventive cat-meets-mice plotting, brooding, secretive and quicksilver characters, and vivid cinematic tours along dank cobbled alleyways, fetid sewage lines, gangrenous battlefields and mean dirt roads on four continents ... Vengeance, mysteries, resentment and assorted schemes animate the plot. As does a complicated triangle of relationships ... a sweeping, well-crafted chase story that remains compelling for more than 700 pages.