RaveThe Guardian (UK)...immensely satisfying ... A novelist and an academic at an American university, Jan is thus far a safe bet as avatar for the prizewinning Martin herself – though this assumption, as so many in this beautifully fractal novel, is challenged and unpicked as the narrative progresses ... Slyly, seductively, teasingly, extended over a friendship that lasts a decade and more, Martin’s novel threads together Jan’s beguiled interpretation of her hostess’s life...and embeds it in a wider narrative that includes a leisurely, amused analysis of the creative process and its ongoing battle with the intrusions and outrages of \'real life\', the daily existence that is banal and demanding and – just occasionally – stranger than fiction ... At once braced and embraced by their sturdy frame of ironical, philosophical and creative inquiry, cleverly plotted and packed with great characters, both Jan’s creative struggles and her beautifully wrought stories of the Salviati family lift themselves effortlessly free of their source material, whatever or wherever that may be. They demonstrate the enchanted moment when words on a page rise by virtue of the alliance of a mysterious grace and sheer hard work, and create magic.
PositiveThe Guardian (UK)This is remarkable raw material for a novel. Prescott’s book...has all the ingredients for a spy thriller. It has a great cast of characters and a wealth of historical detail to be mined, plus the potential for insight into a bizarre and compelling point in our history and, of course, a love story. Prescott’s first achievement is her identification of these qualities: weaving them into a complex and involving narrative is altogether more of a challenge, but she works hard and with considerable ambition to meet it, and entwines a surprising love story of her own invention ... It is the female characters who carry this adventure, from the pragmatic, loyal, indestructible Olga to the marvellous typists ... Prescott may not be an accomplished prose stylist, but her characterisation is often deft. Her Pasternak is vividly flawed: histrionic, lachrymose but stubbornly lovable. Her research is thorough if occasionally a little too visible, and the portrayal of the love between Olga and Pasternak is poignant and convincing. Sold in 25 countries, with film rights optioned, The Secrets We Kept is set to be a publishing phenomenon; but more importantly, it is a thoroughly enjoyable read.
RaveThe Guardian...[an] immensely enjoyable collection ... Lively’s, then, is the voice of experience, and there is a grandmotherly tone to her stories, occasionally expressing impatience with the younger generation and their blank disbelief at the thought of ageing ... Her tone is not elegiac but something far sharper, and she does not twinkle: Lively is not that kind of grandmother. She is funny ... Lively is wary of high emotion, but only because she knows its power. In these perfectly pitched circumnavigations of relationships, passion and sex lie unseen but felt everywhere beneath the surface.
RaveThe GuardianMothering Sunday is both a dissection of the nature of fiction and a gripping story; a private catastrophe played out in the quiet drawing rooms of the English upper middle-class, the drama that unfolds is all the more potent for its containment ... Mothering Sunday is bathed in light; and even when tragedy strikes, it blazes irresistibly. Its sustained note is one of exultation, at the writer’s ruthless impulse to grind up disaster and move on. Jane may be the motherless maidservant and Paul the carelessly privileged heir, but as she rises from their bed in the wake of his departure, walks naked through his grand empty house and begins to exercise her novelist’s entitlement – to watch, to observe, to describe and to transcend her circumstances – the balance of power shifts momentously in her favour and Swift’s small fiction feels like a masterpiece.
PositiveThe GuardianCombining as it does the cultural narrative of a complex century forsaken by God and certainty, a serious investigation of the vulnerability of the human mind and an old-fashioned – in the best sense – story of love and war, this is an ambitious, demanding and profoundly melancholy novel.