MixedThe Financial Times...[an] atmospheric tale ... Helen Phillips’ prose is suitably claustrophobic, trapping us within Josephine’s suffocating routine and increasingly fraught inner monologue as she’s driven to despair by her penurious home life, and a husband who keeps mysteriously disappearing. And there are a few enjoyably absurdist touches — the ethereality of birth and death reduced to the prosaic matter of paperwork. Perhaps, however, it would have been stronger as a short story; too often details are repeated, and many of its observations will be familiar to those even casually versed in dystopian fiction.
David Samuel Levinson
MixedThe Financial Times... it’s at its most compelling in passages where the siblings open up to one another about painful episodes from their shared past. It’s a shame then that his prose is so prolix — any serious meditations on abuse and the 'ethics' of murder are soon diluted by Levinson’s superficial attempts to satirise anti-Semitism, Jewish-Germanic relations and LA vanity.
MixedThe Financial TimesNarrated by his 12-year-old son, we see how the children are manipulated and soon victimised by their father’s propensity for cruelty. The accounts of the endless beatings (inevitably followed by disingenuous apologies) are described in vivid yet spare prose. The tone also creates a jarring disconnect; the laconic, sometimes wry writing is too knowing and too literary (‘back curved like a parenthesis’) to ever convince as the voice of a scared, and scarred, child.