RaveFinancial TimesThe wit has returned in China Dream — a short, highly satirical work no less excoriating than any of Ma’s previous fiction, translated in a graphic, stylish manner by Drew ... Not for nothing has Ma been called both the Orwell and Solzhenitsyn of Chinese literature; his depiction of a totalitarian state is lancing ... Scenes that are fantastical but also based on reality are Ma’s speciality ... Believable and brutal, this is Ma’s boldest and, despite its brevity, most elegiac work.
Lena Andersson Trans. by Saskia Vogel
PositiveThe Times Literary SupplementAndersson (well served by Saskia Vogel’s subtle translation) is an electrifying writer when she is not in potboiler mode. The prose’s many wincing banalities render convincingly Ester’s unhappy, immature imagination which is tempered by the forensic cruelty used to depict her suffering ... humiliating, frustrating – and horribly recognizable. The end makes full use of the anticipated pyrrhic victory, and it is desolating to witness: a human plight that again brings to mind Auden, this time his definition of poetry as \'the clear expression of mixed feelings\'. One expects to meet Ester Nilsson again in a few years’ time.
PositiveFinancial TimesLively and enterprising ... Gordon can seem too eager to affiliate her subjects and sometimes gives her overt admiration too free a rein...Yet when not so obviously in thrall, the portrayals are vivid, the research and its conclusions adept ... Most stirringly, all five [women] had an eye to empowering future generations.
RaveFinancial Times\"Reading a Hustvedt novel is like consuming the best of David Lynch on repeat ... Ideas somersault nimbly in the novel as memoir jostles with memories. Primarily, SH writes of a past of navigated possibility from a future of unforeseen jeopardy: in 2017, the established novelist laments the current political scene of progression lurching backwards. It is a point at which both SH and her creator appear, in this intense, high-spirited Bildungsroman, to have come full circle.\
Ma Jian, Trans. by Flora Drew
RaveFinancial TimesThe wit has returned in China Dream—a short, highly satirical work no less excoriating than any of Ma’s previous fiction, translated in a graphic, stylish manner by Drew ... Not for nothing has Ma been called both the Orwell and Solzhenitsyn of Chinese literature; his depiction of a totalitarian state is lancing. There are heavy insinuations of the far-right reach of American politics ... Believable and brutal, this is Ma’s boldest and, despite its brevity, most elegiac work.
Han Kang, Trans. by Deborah Smith
RaveFinancial TimesAn astonishingly rendered work of fiction, as much a meditation as a narrative ... Precise, subversive, fierce and deceptively opaque ... There is a heaviness in these pages, teamed with wonder; a fragile coexistence from sentence to sentence ... is not without hope. In its own way the novel is a sublime expression of grief’s incongruous byways, its busy inactivity, its larger, more elaborate intrusions.
PositiveFinancial Times\"... sumptuous ... Several months pass between the opening chapter of Late in the Day and its close — not even half an orbit of the sun — but its changes are so multifold and profound that the reader emerges from the novel’s pages as restless and purposeful as the characters contained within them ... Hadley’s acute consideration of domestic drama and its sober richness has something in common with Margaret Drabble’s early novels...\
PositiveThe GuardianIn his new work, another clever, cutting riff on the book-within-a book...the anonymous protagonist speedily evolves from routine sociopath to extreme psychopath ... For a while it’s all a little bit Martin Amis, a little bit Bret Easton Ellis, until the novel changes gear with the introduction of a third-person narrative and his latest obsession, Frances, whose life is derailing with an alarming propulsion ... The bloodier the deed, the more the main character’s notebooks fill up. All roads lead to Frances, and to the denouement of her—and her pursuer’s—now creepily symbiotic narrative ... this strangely congenial thriller-cum-treatise on urban disaffection, modern relationships, misogyny and madness, ends on a note of provocative ambiguity.
Christina Hesselholdt Trans. Paul Russell Garrett
RaveThe Financial Times\"Companions, translated with care and élan by Paul Russell Garrett, is not at all a gloomy work. Hesselholdt’s touch is light, even mocking, as much as her subject matter is grave. There is a dancing intelligence roaming free here, darting back and forth among ideas and sensations. Her novel is a deceptively nonchalant defence of modernism and a work of pure animation.\
Dorthe Nors, Trans. by Misha Hoekstra
PositiveThe GuardianCertainly the formal recklessness of Nors’s writing is most apparently effective in the novella – essentially plotless, it is enriched by its own contrivance ... This 200-page lamentation on contemporary loneliness would quickly grate if it were not for the benevolent ingenuity of Nors’s writing. When Sonja’s narrative breaks free of the corner she has boxed herself into, the prose swoops and soars like her yearned-for whooper swans. It’s at these moments that Nors’s reinvention of experimental fiction is so marvellous: the remainder of her backlist should not disappoint.
Négar Djavadi, Trans. by Tina Kover
RaveThe Financial Times...a novel teeming with perspicacious observations and hypotheses on exile, statelessness and reshaping identity. Tina Kover’s dynamic translation into English is a high-wire act, capturing all the animation and vigour of a breathless narrative voice ... The novel pulsates with life, but does not shirk from violence — seen mostly from a child’s perspective. The gorgeous prose, the heady elements of magical realism...takes the edge off the relentless turmoil described throughout. Similarly, Djavadi’s humour is infectious, whether overtly satirical or simply wisecracking ... Though by no means a failure, the wildly persuasive expressiveness of the first half of Disoriental does flag during its second. Nevertheless, it is an absorbing, important and noteworthy counterpoint to western accounts of this period of Iran’s history and its abiding aftermath.
PositiveThe Financial TimesProbing, psychologically unafraid, witty and often agonised ... In a novel seemingly without a distinct structure, Heti’s strength — and most profound connection with the reader — is that of her narrator’s dialogue with herself. As an interlocutor she is steely and ruthless. She undermines but also, conversely, emphasises her rationality by consulting fortune tellers and Tarot readers ... With its mix of autofiction and philosophy, Motherhood is no manifesto but an essential — and often exasperating — exploration of uncertainty and of the art that can be created from it.
Leila Slimani, Trans. by Sam Taylor
RaveThe Financial TimesIts multiple appeal is clear from the first page: Slimani’s style, enhanced by Sam Taylor’s graceful, unobtrusive translation, is calm, matter-of-fact and controlled, with only a hint of the deranged unravelling to come ...a whydunnit rather than a whodunnit or a howdunnit, it is primarily a cool, dispassionate, and thoroughly uncomfortable look at class, culture and gender, particularly the eternally knotty subject of motherhood...repressed chaos is constantly at work in the book, scrabbling beneath the formal exterior ...it is redolent of Zola’s Thérèse Raquin, or Genet’s The Maids.
PanThe GuardianPat is having ‘apart time’ from wife Nikki for unspecified reasons, although his uncontrollable rages drop a heavy hint. In anticipation of the ‘silver linings’ future when they will be reunited, Pat undertakes a manic exercise regime and reads the classics of American literature, searching for a happy ending. The ensuing send-ups of books including The Great Gatsby and The Bell Jar form the novel's wittiest passages. The rest is a schmaltzy, sentimental journey to recovery, all relayed by Pat in an irritating idiot-savant manner.
Jenny Erpenbeck, Trans. by Susan Bernofsky
RaveThe Financial Times\"Superbly translated by her usual collaborator Susan Bernofsky, the novel naturally forms part of a loose trilogy with the anterior works ... There’s a melancholic undertone to the novel, murmuring beneath its condensed, liquid prose. Erpenbeck is scathing about the absurdities of a nightmarish bureaucracy that appears to deliberately wrongfoot refugees ... If the efforts of Richard and the majority of his German friends have the element of a utopian vision, its roots surely lie in the cataclysmic decades they have endured, and the relative prosperity of their post-communist lives. Deceptively unhurried, yet undeniably urgent, this is Erpenbeck’s most significant work to date.\
RaveThe Financial TimesThe register alternates swiftly between quirky and pathos, and a kind of joyous gallows humour ... Reading the novel is a reminder, too, of how well American writers portray small-town life and culture — the boredom, the restlessness, the reluctant homecoming ... The formal sweetness of these attempts to hold back the dread to come is like a chain of fairy lights in the darkness, with Khong displaying a deep understanding of the way in which memory humanises and connects us individually, communally — and without which all becomes chaos.
MixedThe Financial TimesFor Ryan, savagery and wonderment coexist unashamedly in his accounts of private, apparently unremarkable lives conducted under small-town public scrutiny ... As a portrait of the psychological cruelties meted out in a marriage, the novel is highly convincing ... The book’s pronounced fatalism is perturbing. At times it has the tempo of a tragedy as momentous as anything in Thomas Hardy, at others it comes across as outrageously manipulative. This is nowhere more apparent than in Ryan’s somewhat stereotyped and awestruck portrayal of the traveller community ... There is a perversity in delineating the suffering of female characters so unsparingly, while painting them (Mary, Breedie) as angelic. It’s not to say that the men aren’t affected, but their suffering is not accorded the same quasi-religious, ennobling quality. Ryan’s ability to engage the reader is without question but his dogged emphasis on penance, culminating in Melody’s ultimate sacrifice, strikes a lasting and profoundly discomfiting note.
RaveThe Financial Times...this account of her journey back to equilibrium, assisted by her closest companion, literature, is as powerful as any of her award-winning fiction, with the dark fixture of her Beijing past at its centre ... Though billed as a consolation for 'like-minded readers,' the book does not neatly fall within such a narrow definition. As with Li’s fiction, her struggle to admit life over death is at times traumatic to read, all the more so because there is a barely concealed agony in the scrupulousness of its measured words ... Plangent and precise, this is Li’s personal anatomy of melancholy.
PositiveNew StatesmanMargaret Drabble, for her 20th novel, has chosen for its title and epigraph a refrain from Lawrence’s valedictory The Ship of Death: there are numerous endings in the book, but it is Lawrence’s restless revolt against mortality which hovers spectacularly throughout ... Fran is an archetypal Drabble character, an older version of her heroines from the 1960s and early 1970s: educated, dogged, middle class, self-improving ... Mordant wit and a strong humanitarian concern coexist in this novel; Lawrence’s ship of death becomes a metaphor for desperate people fleeing war and famine in rickety boats, washed up on inhospitable European beaches ... In terms of its plotlessness, The Dark Flood most closely resembles Drabble’s 1980 book, The Middle Ground, a series of contemplations on urban disaffection. While her writing can be high-handed, the novel is a significant achievement, admirable and truthful.
Yan Lianke, Trans. by Carlos Rojas
RaveThe Financial Times\"\"\"...a hyper-real tour de force, a blistering condemnation of political corruption and excess masquerading as absurdist saga ... Robustly translated by Carlos Rojas, the novel is a grotesque entertainment on a Grand Guignol scale, as well as a pointed indictment of what the real Yan, in his afterword, terms \'mythorealism\' — an exaggerated reality of deliberate, collective stupidity and counterfactuality, strikingly similar to today’s concept of \'fake news\' ... we can marvel at his Swiftian sardonicism, yet its basis, however irrational, is reality. To this end he has written a novel which extends beyond China’s moral contradictions to the ethical ambivalence of our times.\"\"
RaveThe Guardian...[a] near-faultless debut collection ... This pervasive undercurrent, the fallout from Ireland’s boom and bust, permeates the book ... a quietly dazzling collection.
RaveThe Financial Times...[an] extraordinary novel ... the book is no worthy historical tract or slice of polemic, but rather a living, breathing organism shaped by its three main characters ... [a] highly suspenseful drama; measured, intoxicating and tragic.
RaveThe Financial Times\"...the book comprises a series of (literally) intramural soliloquies, some as brief as haiku, often disarming and always slightly disturbing. Although it is styled as a short-story collection Pond’s sharp, fragmentary form eludes any obvious classification ... To describe Bennett as a bold writer is an understatement. Her use of monologue has both the sinister swagger of Browning’s dramatic verse and the sense of depersonalisation that hovers throughout Beckett ... The idea of personhood as an elemental force is central to the book, especially as realised in the figure of the self-sufficient, inaccessible woman, unkempt in appearance, abstracted in thought, and sometimes capriciously contrary.\