RaveThe Chicago Review of Books... bright, perspicacious, and elegant ... Most notable for its sterling point-of-view and the literary ancestry it invokes, White on White primarily, although not exclusively, trails along these technical lines, namely in its clear evolution from Rachel Cusk’s Outline trilogy ... a discursive, intimate first-person narrator to, via dropping authorial flags and bleeding syntax and diction into each other, thrust a secondary character into immediacy with the reader. When done properly, as it frequently is in White on White, this method is a subtle and effective one ... hile Savaş perhaps does not possess the same electric prose, razor-sharp precision, or mechanically flawless use of, as this reviewer has termed it, first-person free-indirect (something that can be said of all Cusk’s contemporaries), she is nonetheless a more than legitimate literary descendant and engaging practitioner of the craft ... Propelled by a rich voice and sharp eye, and ultimately offering an insightful study of the decay wrought by time on relationships and identity, White on White stands as both a well-defined and well-executed work in its own right and a prime example of the evolutionary process of the novel as an art form, the employment of an extant technical-mechanical route to reach a new and enlightening destination.
RaveThe Chicago Review of Books... a fresh release from a well-loved author can often be the most gratifying. It is in this light Claire Chambers, a writer who has established herself as a prominent and accomplished novelist with a wide audience, has come through once more with her latest book ... Chambers prides story above all else, and moves immediately into the action from the opening pages. Our protagonist, Jean, is a refreshingly original one ... Chambers’ straightforward and useful narrative patterning creates an accessible, relatable story that never allows itself to become sidetracked or drawn astray. Moving with the brisk pace of a London morning, we follow Jean across the plot from scene to scene, often opening with a specific moment before transitioning into exposition designed to inform the audience of the internal and external events since the last chapter. While it is an approach that takes few chances in style or form, it has an obvious and fulfilled purpose, clearing the narrative decks for Jean and the pursuit of her remarkable journalistic white whale ... Intertwined nicely with the central plot—and given a rather surprising, if welcome, amount of attention given the book’s overall ethos—is the geo-temporal location ... inexorably wound up in its plot, as Jean’s oppressing tensions—her conventional mother, the limits placed on her by social convention, and the challenges of working in a male-dominated industry—give life and propulsion to the book as a whole ... That readership Chambers enjoys as a result of her successful career will recognize and admire the clear-eyed prose and emotionally resonant storytelling that dominates the genetic makeup ... By the end, the style used in Small Pleasures manages, much like the good journalist who serves as its heroine, to present the facts without getting in the way of the story, and makes for a book that will satisfy its audience.
PositiveChicago Review of Books[A] focused and coherent debut ... Told in a forthright, clearheaded, and sensible first person, by a narrator who is eminently likable if perhaps a bit dull, Luchette’s début demonstrates that its author has mastered that first essential element of the craft—clarity of purpose and a precise motivation behind their work ... The simplicity ultimately serves its purpose, allowing the story of Agatha and her nomadic sisters to take center stage all its own, unembellished and unmolested. Luchette adopts a method all their own, intertwining form and content ... Agatha of Little Neon reaches that goal which all novels fundamentally pursue—saying something authentic and essential about the human experience—and does so with verisimilitude and the grace that comes with living simply.
RaveThe Chicago Review of Books... sparkling confident ... McClorey proves herself not only well aware, but fully in command of this elusive fictive element ... A startling and charming debut, the lifeblood of McClorey’s work is the expertly formed and controlled voice with which our protagonist relates her often humorous, subtly sad, narrative. The book has a utopian grander to it, a Confederacy of Dunces-esq cosmopolitan inventory that paints its players in bold relief...What’s more, McClorey has more than a trace of John Kennedy Toole’s uproarious plot making and brilliant craftsmanship to her, with interior and exterior dialogue that sings and descriptions that slice through the daily world ... As we move through the wonderfully strange yet brilliantly familiar events of Amy’s landmark summer, we learn about her tragicomic backstory via precise memory that never feels authorial or expository; instead each passage of Amy’s past—given in a manner that causes each to read like a coveted piece of a historical puzzle serves as an organic outgrowth of a natural scene, with McClorey’s smooth mechanics allowing her to seamlessly render her protagonist’s moves between fictive present and past. From page to page, across the whole, Nobody, Somebody, Anybody is a book that’s hard to decipher and harder to give up. It lends itself to long luxurious bouts of reading, propelled by its arresting worldview, unique voice, and quick pace. McClorey also manages a well balanced sense of readerly mystery, playing on that narrative-temporal location right up until the technically daring, utterly engrossing ending ... a finely calibrated book for its era, one that even—while feeling more fortuitous happenstance than anything—fits in a loose, thematic way with a pandemic-weary world ... McClorey proves herself more than capable in all aspects of the art of the novel—a rare feat for a freshman effort. With a singular voice, a carousing, quixotic, dauntless protagonist, rich and organic humor, the disarming, thought provoking ending, and above all, the current of sadness and depth of humanity that runs below the surface, time and again the reader finds themselves simply impressed ... From start to finish, here is the uncommon book that is supremely sure in conception, approach, and execution, and one that avoids trying to do too much—a common pitfall of the discursive first person. This last point should be interpreted as high praise:McClorey finds a razor sharp narrative focus and doesn’t allow her heroine to stray off course. By limiting her temporal range and perspective, McClorey is able to keep every scene charged with energy and importance, steering clear of those self-serious, overly introspective moments of expository reflection that often come with a first person narrative in which the act of the telling and the appearance of fictive events are distant in time. By keeping her narrating and narrative protagonists nearly one in the same, separated by only weeks, and with the former knowing little more than the latter, McCorley creates a central character of refreshing accessibility, vulnerability, and verisimilitude ... stands as a remarkable first novel, one that will stay with its reader and makes bold promises about the future career of its creator.
RaveThe Chicago Review of Books... among the more satisfying and accomplished books of the past year ... Arnett signals her writerly evolution from the first lines of this new work. Allowing no spare moment for the reader to acclimate themselves, the taut, confident opening chapter of With Teeth immediately establishes the punctuated tension and merciless urgency that the earlier effort sometimes lacked. For all the accomplishments of the latter...Arnett now pushes in a new direction and ends up with a follow-up novel of greater skill, ambition, and poignancy than the first ... In a manner more fully realized than in her first effort, here Arnett crafts a protagonist that the reader comes to feel for despite her clear flaws ... For all the wisdom of the point-of-view decision on the macro level, at the micro Arnett’s mechanics and structure do, at spots, belie a lack of total comfort in the form ... The completely unexpected, nearly absurd, wonderfully strange passage that serves as inspiration for the title is indicative of With Teeth’s refreshing interest in the art of the scene. At times, Arnett would be better served staying a while longer in a given moment...Overall, however, the book moves so quickly in leaping, lingering, then leaping once more, that the reader is constantly engaged and excited to read ahead ... As the book progresses, it is the strangeness, the off-white coloring in which Arnett paints, that provides the momentum ... The best moments of With Teeth are when Arnett fully settles into a slice of Sammi’s life and mind, letting rich prose seamlessly guide the narrative from physical description to inner thoughts. In a novel that often embodies in form the hectic interpersonal dynamics of the twenty-first century American family that it takes as content, even brief moments of reprise stand as key landmarks. By taking a second to breathe, we are able to keep pace with so wide-ranging a plot, to stay invested in the characters and outcome ... Arnett has managed to wrangle the wilds of love, family, and motherhood to tell an engaging, voluminous story in bright, lucid prose.
PositiveThe Chicago Review of Books... leans heavily on its namesake as it drives towards its landing, and while we do safely reach the end — completing a long, adventurous, and large-scale journey along the way — at times one cannot help but wonder as to the result if more attention might have been paid to the how over the where ... Shipstead’s plots are ambitious, entertaining, and eventful; in these respects, Great Circle is her preeminent offering. The story, at once timely and timeless, fits well in our modern, individualistic age, a clearly well-researched and carefully considered examination of American history. The dual protagonists are engaging and at times inspirational heroines, talented and capable women who offer a refreshing pair of female voices taking on traditional roles of adventure and daring. Shipstead’s greatest talents lie in conceiving boldly drawn characters who navigate and challenge intricately detailed worlds across stories wide in both scope and range; Great Circle is no exception ... draws upon all of Shipstead’s storytelling abilities to sustain its extensive plot, as these lines surge towards each other in rough parallel. While her endeavors are ultimately successful — a grand story is told in the end — and Shipstead aims for a work epic in scope and intimate in approach, her need to wrangle such a plot causes her to get in the way of her characters, prioritizing accessibility and ease of reading over verisimilitude or scenes that leap off the page. Like the navigational guide that gives its title, Great Circle will appeal most to readers who focus on the end more than the means, but for those with an attunement to the intricacies of style, mechanics, and technique, it proves a challenging and at times frustrating work ... Both narratives, told in mostly swift vignettes that aid in proving momentum to the book, build rather inexorably to their resolutions, and although Shipstead is naturally gifted in her ability to examine a private moment with a character, the voice and restriction of both narrator and author is never far from the reader’s mind ... However, the direct path has its place in the world, and Shipstead manages a wonderfully imagined plot of sensational scope. It will appeal to the reader who simply wants to be told a good story, without fixing an eye towards the finer points of method. Like its central character, once Great Circle is off the ground it moves swiftly and surely, drawing a direct, if circumscribed, line from a bygone age of adventure to a modern, dauntless, world.