Joaquim Maria Machado De Assis, trans. by Margaret Jull Costa and Robin Patterson
RavePost and CourierTo tell his story, Bras Cubas patents a voice that is hilarious, irreverent and fractured. Machado imagined him in 1881, but he might have stepped out of today’s pages. Because he has no stake anymore in protecting his own reputation or in salvaging dead dreams, Bras Cubas is a free man ... Memoirs is an intricate, mirror-like work, with no faith in resolution. It’s fun to watch him second-guess himself ... Translator Margaret Jull Costa’s introduction to this newly rendered edition labels Bras’ narrative \'a catalogue of failures.\' He likes to show himself in a bad (though human and understandable) light. Midway through the novel, he writes \'already, I’m beginning to regret this book. Not that I’m tired of it; I have nothing else to do\' ... Machado is both playful and philosophical. From an imagined timelessness, he frees his hero to see his portion of the cosmos without the filter of a term limit. It’s a bracing perspective.
RaveThe Post and CourierReaders of Macdonald’s wonderful memoir H is for Hawk will have high expectations for Vesper Flights. Not to worry: While the essays don’t have the memoir’s concentration on a single grief-fueled story, they do showcase the same feel for the interplay of wild and human worlds ... Each of Macdonald’s essays is in some way an encounter with the unknown. She is a famed naturalist and a sublime writer, but her expertise is only an entry point for joyful discovery. The world never had a better advocate. What strikes me most about Macdonald is her patience and delicacy. She doesn’t expect to capture nature in a glance or to sum it up in a phrase. She looks long and hard, and then she looks again.
PositiveThe Post and CourierNo voice here carries the day. Smith is ever aware of the wide streak between what seems to be and what is. She lets us listen in, play emotional detective and unscramble what we can of what is and what was (always crucial in a story that hopscotches across time and geography) ... Never has she been more dedicated to the long view. And never has the long, settled view seemed more inconclusive ... over and over, her novels show us beauty at the junction where innocence and knowledge meet. Smith has hitched herself to history on the fly, but she reminds us that in all times, love and beauty persist.
RaveThe Post and CourierCromwell lives in a full-blown, bloody, action-packed age. He is gutsy and brave; he rises to every occasion; he accepts risk. Mantel’s Cromwell belongs at the center of power ... The Mirror and the Light is majestic in its scope and sympathy, especially in its last 60 heartbreaking pages ... Mantel arranges heart-thudding, you-are-there details.
PositiveThe Post and CourierA character in Love Medicine,” Erdrich’s first novel, says \'Love is a stony road.\' The sprawling plots and crowded stages of all her novels since are really just continuations of this thought. Each of the characters in The Night Watchman has a toehold on the rocky terrain of love. Erdrich doesn’t speak in grand terms about the persistence that keeps her Turtle Mountain band on their native ground. She shows us instead, one by one, what love of a homeland means to her characters and why they choose fidelity over dispersal. These are new characters for Erdrich. If we’re lucky, she’ll let us meet them again in a sequel.
RaveThe Post and Courier... a pliable, resistant novel ... Many readers (I am one) fall hard for Offill’s spare, fractured method ... Offill writes as if from the long historical perspective. Her end-times narrative is both desperate and funny ... Lizzie is such a charming empath, her sensibility so offbeat, and her dread of climate catastrophe so real ... Jenny Offill’s wonderful book ends with its own plea to close distances: \'The core delusion is that I am here and you are there.\'
RaveThe Post and CourierIn lean, uncluttered language, Greenwell tells messy, lush stories ... It could be argued that every story is really about the narrator. He is our filter for all the other perspectives, and his narrative shapes theirs. Memory and art are making something durable out of experiences most notable for comings, goings and chaos.
RaveThe Post and Courier... a catch-all volume, zippy and various ... a fun party ... Smith, as always, nails the pitch and tone of everyday life. Just as we readers are floating along frictionless in Smith’s prose, she brings us back to the real world ... Smith herself brims with zest and attitude. Her sense of inhabiting a time and place — fully being there — is a marvel ... Whether she’s recording a mass cry of distress at the closing of Cage Loup in the Village or taking us on a walk with her Jamaican aunts, whose visit coincides exactly with the four days of the Kavanaugh hearings, Smith tunes in to big, colorful worlds. She will always be a native of Willesden, another big, colorful world, but she’s made herself at home also here in the States ... In all the outposts of Zadie Smith’s imagination, one thing is certain: No one fails to be.
Olga Tokarczuk, Trans. by Antonia Lloyd-Jones
RaveThe Post and CourierThese are great mysteries, and Janina Duszejko is a great and fallible soul. Her idiosyncratic, exclamatory style is a pleasure to read, along with her expressive attention to human and non-human suffering ... The climactic scene defamiliarizes the familiar. At a church service celebrating the hunt, the narrator is suddenly sick of the world’s hypocrisy and bursts the bounds of silence. It is a thrilling moment, worthy of the author’s radical and demanding vision.
RaveThe Post and CourierThe good news is that [Hempel] is still funny, still sneaking in the oblique details that move an ordinary story ... Hempel’s empathy with the secret lives of her characters is epic ... The title story is Hempel’s sort of masterpiece ... The story and the collection insist that each one is irreplaceable ... Many of the stories here don’t have a traditional narrative arc. The have loss; they have laughter in spite of everything ... Hempel’s narrators shuffle through the moods of their lives, remembering but not regulated by the past. They laugh it all off and choose pliable, singing futures.
RaveThe Post and CourierHer specialty is the discrepancy between self-image and reality, but she doesn’t watch only to pounce. Malcolm also can be a sincere praise-singer and is happy to admire ... Malcolm does not scorn surfaces. She assumes that we all live in a world of appearances and that the look of things—a room, an outfit—is of interest ... Malcolm is fair, and excellent company. Nobody’s Looking at You is a thrilling book, studded with sharp perceptions and images.
RavePost and Courier...riveting ... Gone is the love foursome of Conversations, gone too the ironic knowingness. Rooney’s new book is more concentrated, more desperate, more willing to go for broke ... Page by page, Normal People works out with fascinating exactitude what the privilege of touch and influence entails. In the way of 19th-century novels, Rooney makes us care in old-fashioned ways about the outcome of her story ... While Rooney grounds her plot in a world of social fixities, she understands personal truths to be elastic. Over the course of a life, almost anything might happen to anyone. And anyone might at one time or another become somebody else ... In the realm of love, either everything is normal or nothing is, Rooney seems to say. Love for her \'normal people\' is the ultimate conversion experience ... Goodness is a gift Connell gives Marianne; now it belongs to her. It’s tempting to imagine each without the other. Marianne might year by year come to value herself less, be more open to abasement. Connell might become one of those Henry James men with his hands in his pockets, a ghost in his own life. The idea of the unlived life hovers over these pages. Yet Rooney goes full-throttle toward the big finish: Love is real, and love matters.