PositiveThe Wall Street JournalThe armed forces’ distrust of romantic relationships—and the apparent misogyny that underlies this view—ripples throughout Ms. Carruthers’s prose ... Ms. Carruthers is careful to acknowledge that couples are not hermetically sealed from the larger social shifts of the past century, including changes in women’s status, marital expectations and the conduct of warfare ... Ms. Carruthers makes a convincing case that \'the Dear John letter has helped make women, not war, the culprit for love’s breakdown under pressure. It’s time other stories—and other voices—were heard.\'
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalThe most recent heiresses in this selective catalog refused the default female position of passive victim that characterized earlier incarnations ... Alongside all the gossip, Ms. Thompson found a few enlightened heiresses, such as Angela Burdett-Coutts, who in the late 19th century made good philanthropic use of her millions. But heiresses such as these are not so fun to read about. They certainly don’t give us the same delicious shiver of schadenfreude.
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalSensational encompasses the intersection of newspaper wars, the campaign for women’s rights and the growing concern over the exploitation of labor. Ms. Todd interweaves these themes into her close focus on newspaper archives. Rather than emphasize one woman at a time, however, she takes a chronological approach—not entirely successfully, making it difficult to keep the stunt reporters apart as they don their disguises and dive into squalor ... Ms. Todd’s resurrection of these courageous reporters is fascinating because the women and their stories are so vibrant. With acerbic wit, the author also makes a larger point. In the 1960s, Tom Wolfe challenged established journalistic conventions when he told his stories in scenes, with ample dialogue, colorful details and a distinct point of view. George Plimpton trained with the Detroit Lions. Hunter S. Thompson hung out with the Hells Angels. At colleges across the country, MFA programs began offering degrees in \'creative nonfiction.\' But it was the male muckrakers who are credited as the progenitors of gritty, detailed narratives told in the first person. Ms. Todd makes a good case that more credit is due to those early \'girl stunt reporters.\'
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalMr. Starobin’s story is the typical Gilded Age plot of a political boss and a robber baron jointly pulling the strings of various politicians hungry for their financial support ... Into this narrative Mr. Starobin skillfully weaves the political evolution of Alaska, purchased from Russia in 1867, and the insidious rise of nativism at the turn of the century ... In his lively account of the Nome conspiracy, Mr. Starobin takes satisfaction in the outcome: Even during the Gilded Age’s rampant capitalism, the American justice system prevented McKenzie from looting Alaska.
RaveThe Globe and MailThe world that Ondaatje has created is intensely mid-century English, abundant with details of old-fashioned arts such as thatching and beekeeping, and arcane details about greyhound racing and college roof climbing. Scenes depicted in the earlier pages are drenched in the shadowed lighting and elliptical dialogue of classic black-and-white British films such as Brief Encounter or The Third Man ... Every sentence that Ondaatje writes defies gravity with its elegance, yet is weighty with significance ... underneath the uncertainty there is a sturdy cohesion that makes this one of Ondaatje’s most successful and satisfying novels.