MixedThe Women\'s Review of BooksAs these questions emerge between characters—through their conflicts, actions and speech—they animate the narrative. As they are explored in Eileen and Alice’s sometimes tendentious emails, their primary mode of communication, the ideas can seem undercooked, the vegetables of the meal shoved to the side and easily ignored ... Rooney’s decision, though, to keep the reader out of the heads (although not the bedrooms) of the characters, especially of the two women protagonists, notably a writer and an editor, can leave the reader impatient with being fenced out. Why can’t we be made to better understand Alice’s shakiness, her rage? ... The song also, at the very last, unleashes the conflict between these characters and nudges them out of the doldrums into action. After this, the writing takes on a new power, moving us to a place where the past and a larger world collide. One wishes, then, not for Rooney’s wittier early novels, but for this writer to sidestep too small a beautiful world and to let loose her voice—and her characters’ voices too.
PositiveThe Women\'s Review of Books... is a delicate reconstruction of a self never lost but perhaps silenced ... As a woman, as one of Freud’s many lovers, as a painter bent on capturing the unseen beyond the material world, Celia Paul has a large task in stepping beyond a male-dominated and fame-obsessed art world. The opening of her book, which describes her first encounter with Freud, makes clear how capable she is of taking control, both then and now ... Celia Paul read Dickens as a young woman and lived near the Brontë parsonage with her family. There is something of both writers in her tale, the quiet, much plagued child who eventually, through inherent worth and hard work, triumphs in London. She has written her own story, though, and rescued a remarkable painter.