RaveThe Sunday Times (UK)In her descriptions of sex, as in so much else, Moran is fearless. Her honesty might make you gasp. It will certainly make you laugh out loud. But it will also make you think. Moran has thought deeply about what makes for good sex, what keeps a marriage alive, how to be a good parent and friend, and how to keep the whole exhausting show on the road without going mad, and almost every chapter is packed with insights that feel like revelations ... She’s brilliant on the physical stuff ... She’s also brilliant on the nuances of friendships, relationships and parenting ... And it’s heartbreaking. Moran writes with such warmth and searing honesty that she can yank you from laughter to tears on the same page ... This book is a hilarious memoir, a passionate polemic and a moving manifesto on how to be a decent person and try, in the face of countless stresses, to live a full, open-hearted, joyous life.
PositiveThe Times (UK)There’s a fair bit Frenkel doesn’t tell us in this extraordinary book ... has many echoes of Kafka, and is a reminder of the terrible truth he caught: that if you want to torture a human soul, you can do an awful lot with bits of paper ... Frenkel’s attempts to escape over the border to Switzerland, from December 1942, are as gripping as any thriller ... a stark and chilling account of what happens when a society turns rotten and the rot spreads. It is all the more shocking because the tone is so matter-of-fact. People spread hate as they eat their favourite snacks ... a strangely hypnotic demonstration of what the German-Jewish philosopher Hannah Arendt called the \'banality of evil\': a world where life and death are measured out in rubber stamps ... There’s a singing simplicity to the writing, but also the odd note that feels slightly stilted, with widespread use of phrases like \'not without\'. It’s hard to know if this is the translation or the original. There are also a lot of exclamation marks ... What we do know is that we owe [Frenkel] a huge debt of gratitude. In sharing her bitter taste of bitter history, she has shown us the worst of humanity — but also the best.
PositiveThe Sunday Times (UK)For much of the 20th century,\' says Kate Kirkpatrick in the introduction to this book, \'Beauvoir has not been remembered as a philosopher in her own right.\' Becoming Beauvoir is her attempt to set the record straight ...[Beauvoir\'s] student diaries weren’t published until 2008. Kirkpatrick has studied them all. Her \'select bibliography\' runs to eight pages and the footnotes to more than 50. Not a job for the faint-hearted, but she keeps her gaze steady, her eyes clear. Much of what she finds is pretty shocking ... It’s certainly a warts and all portrait, and Kirkpatrick doesn’t try to defend de Beauvoir when defence seems hard to rustle up ... Becoming Beauvoir is a book to be read slowly and savoured. There’s too much detail to gulp it down. But it is worth the time it takes to read a fascinating portrait of a woman who inspired women around the world and who changed the way many people think.
RaveThe Times (UK)Miller brings her story alive with so many compelling details that we feel every electric twitch and nuance of her tale ... At times, the tension is almost unbearable ... There are times when the campaigning voice in the book feels a little too loud...But she has told her story with such visceral power, and such quiet, deadly anger, that she doesn’t need to spell it out ... This is a minor flaw in a searing, beautiful book by a supremely talented writer. Know My Name? If you don’t now, you probably soon will.
PositiveThe Independent (UK)...her most ambitious yet, bringing together a range of characters scattered throughout her fiction ... Throughout the narrative, and often on the same page, s/he is referred to by both names, not only underlining her dual identity, but also symbolising and dramatising the conflicts and ambiguities at the heart of the novel ... Erdrich\'s precise lyricism is rightly acclaimed, but she has an occasional tendency to overwrite and to launch into flights of surreal humour – suggesting a wry smile at the quirks of fate – that are weird to the point of jarring. Much more successful is her ability to encompass, in her encyclopaedic scope, a profound sense of the astonishing range of human yearning: the ways in which people and communities find the love, laughter and meanings they need to get through.
RaveThe Times (UK)The irony and wit, which is at times as casually lethal as a Dorothy Parker poem, just makes the novel’s central premise seem even more beyond the human capacity to bear ... This is a novel about bearing the unbearable ... In All My Puny Sorrows, as in her other novels, Toews writes in a cool, deceptively simple voice that moves seamlessly between the memory of past joy and the sometimes surprising banality of present pain. This often edges towards poetry ... If a novel works, it works. But her father killed himself in 1998 and her sister killed herself in 2010, and the novel she has written — so exquisitely that you’ll want to savour every word— reads as it if has been wrenched from her heart.
RaveThe Times (UK)...[an] extraordinary book ... In weaving these stories together, Taddeo paints an electrifying picture of female desire, and of the pain men casually inflict in their pursuit of sexual pleasure. She writes in searing prose that seems to capture every nuance. She doesn’t pull her punches. She calls a spade a spade and sexual intercourse a “f***”. In the context, it doesn’t seem obscene. She is aiming to capture the violence of sexual desire and its power to wreck lives — as well, of course, as create them. But there’s also a singing simplicity to the prose that at times lifts it to something more like poetry. At times there are biblical resonances to the prose. This seems entirely appropriate in work that is intended to capture the primal, scorching, life-changing power of sexual desire amid the banality of our daily lives. It doesn’t just aim. It succeeds. Three Women is an astonishing act of imaginative empathy and a gift to women around the world who feel their desires are ignored and their voices aren’t heard. This is a book that blazes, glitters and cuts to the heart of who we are. I’m not sure that a book can do much more.
MixedThe Times (UK)... at times so electrically intense that it’s hard to read on ... But between the passages that edge towards poetry there is some less beguiling prose. Arthur talks about a \'structure of identity\' and \'patriarchal blueprint\' ... which can make him sound more like a lecturer in cultural studies than a New York businessman born at around the time Queen Victoria died ... It’s a bold act of imaginative empathy, but you’d expect an award-winning playwright to be better at catching a voice. Perhaps she is too close to it ... The Apology is an incredibly brave attempt to make sense of what seems senseless. It’s a powerful and sometimes devastating anatomisation of harm. As an attempt at an explanation, it seems plausible, but Ensler’s view, articulated here by her father, that the \'structure\' of male identity is \'predicated on the need to destroy\', can give it the ring of sociological theory, rather than truth ... This chilling book reads like a work of catharsis. But catharsis isn’t quite the same as art.
RaveThe Sunday TimesEach story is more gripping than the last ... It is utterly compelling: the details, the dialogue, which bring each character, however heavily disguised, leaping off the page. Tallis’s years of close observation might not always have solved his patients’ problems (he is disarmingly honest about the limitations of psychotherapy) but they have helped turn him into a fine writer. He is alert to every nuance ... He knows how to tell a story. Boy, does he know how to tell a story. This powerful and moving book is not just about individual cases. It’s also about what the human animal needs.
RaveThe Times (UK)[Tomalin has tried] to tackle her life in the way she would that of any other subject. Like any scrupulous biographer, she uses footnotes and outlines her sources. She [focuses] on the facts ... In her introductory note, Tomalin says she has tried, as Pepys did in his diaries, to give the \'texture\' of a life. This she has achieved brilliantly. What isn’t quite so clear is how many glimpses she has given us of her heart.
MixedThe Times UKIn Calypso, Sedaris continues to draw on many of the themes of his earlier works, but the mood is darker. His family is now older. He and his siblings, he says at the start of the book, are now in their fifties. It is, he adds, \'just a matter of time before our luck runs out and one of us gets cancer\'. When he invites his three sisters, Gretchen, Lisa and Amy, to spend Christmas with him and his partner, Hugh, in the home they share in Sussex, it feels like a \'last hurrah\'. His description of their visit is, as always, extremely funny, a layering of anecdote, musing and memory, one you could easily call an essay ... Throughout this collection, Sedaris moves seamlessly between past and present, observation and anecdote, embarrassing revelation and moments of poignancy that sometimes make you gasp ... although there are moments when he seems to be pushing too hard for the easy gag, and when he could get more impact by ramping down instead of up ... But the odd lapse into hyperbole won’t mar the pleasure of this incredibly funny and sometimes moving meditation on love, death and family life, by a master of his craft.