MixedThe New York Times Book Review... scrupulously researched ... Gappah has chosen an ingenious way to approach Livingstone’s life: She focuses on his death ... The main problem with Halima’s narrative is that all but one of her 14 chapters are prefaced with a quote from the journals of either David Livingstone or the explorer Henry Morton Stanley...This continuing return to brief extracts is a distraction, particularly when these extracts suggest a complexity of character for Livingstone that isn’t fully achieved when he’s viewed through the eyes of Halima ... The 25 entries in Jacob Wainwright’s journal are deeply imbued with his Christian beliefs, but his self-righteous voice lacks the necessary dramatic energy to keep the story moving with any pace. Trapped in a single low gear, the narrative chugs along, prefaced by a series of lackluster imitations of 19th-century chapter headings that announce what is to follow ... If only some of the pathos of Wainwright’s final predicament could have found its way into the main narrative ... Petina Gappah is a skilled writer ... Although Gappah’s Livingstone is dead, his voice is still resonant in the extracts from his journals. One wishes she had arranged things so that Livingstone’s silvery tongue had remained absolutely still.
PositiveThe New York Review of BooksBanville’s decision to write Mrs. Osmond — a sequel to James’s The Portrait of a Lady — suggests a comfortable meeting of literary temperaments in a shared affinity for decorative language, but raises some questions as to their compatibility with regard to narrative architecture ...seizes the narrative baton from Henry James and quickly moves Isabel Osmond away from a mournful Gardencourt where, following the death of her cousin Ralph, she has allowed herself to be kissed by the suggestively virile Caspar Goodwood ...the incident-packed denouement of Mrs. Osmond cannot compensate for the stasis of much of the novel’s length, and the many passages in which Banville’s luxuriant prose feels a trifle excessive...Banville picks over the bones of The Portrait of a Lady, offering us beautifully phrased set-pieces and often exquisite minor portraiture rather than narrative energy ...goes beyond what the reader might have previously encountered in Banville’s often underplotted fiction.