PositiveFinancial Times (UK)This is not a book for the faint-hearted. Rape, incest and dismemberment are all recounted with the eye for nauseating detail and the unflinching detachment that has turned some readers away from Moshfegh’s previous novels. Yet the violent and arbitrarily cruel world of Lapvona is arguably more suited to her talents than her usual contemporary settings. Particularly compelling is the way Moshfegh’s compulsive fascination with all that is most abject and grotesque in human life is set against extraordinarily lyrical evocations of the natural world ... Less wholly successful than the change in setting — and, indeed, genre, this being a kind of medieval fantasy novel — is Lapvona’s shift in narrative focus. Where Moshfegh’s other novels were all narrated in the first person by a single female protagonist, the third person narration of her latest moves between the perspectives of a relatively large cast of colourful character ... Moshfegh exhibits a previously untested facility for swiftly immersing readers in each character’s deeply idiosyncratic ways of experiencing the world ... The novel moves so quickly between its extraordinarily eccentric characters that it is difficult to become particularly invested in their (usually horrific) fates. It seems that Lapvona is simply less interested in individuals than in depicting a community’s peculiar social ecosystems ... It is as unlikely to put off her devoted readers as it is to appeal to those who found her previous novels simply too much to stomach ... Moshfegh’s bold venture beyond her comfort zone in Lapvona is a welcome promise of how much more she has to offer American literature today.
PositiveFinancial Times (UK)\"... this is an impeccably executed novel, incisive in its dissections of characters’ psychologies and unerring in its choreographic arrangement of the narrative’s dramatic revelations. Banville is characteristically virtuosic in excavating the obscurity of human motivations. The subtly playful, lyrically evocative and polished prose, meanwhile, is evidently of a calibre rarely seen in crime fiction today. That said, readers of literary fiction may find it hard to overlook the extent to which the morose, alcoholic, enigmatic Quirke is, if not quite a figure of cliché, then certainly cut from a thoroughly familiar cloth, his self-sabotaging behaviour following a fairly predictable pattern. Characters’ philosophical ruminations on the nature of memory, desire and loss likewise come across as rather halfhearted, even tired, compared to those found in Banville’s finest works ... April in Spain ultimately feels like a transitional work ... Nevertheless, Banville’s \'coming out\' as a crime writer has undeniably injected fresh energy into his fiction ... the first instalments of the new Strafford series, which promises to elevate the crime novel to new artistic heights.
David Hoon Kim
PositiveFinancial Times...haunting and surreal ... Vividly drawn characters...burst into the plot, only to disappear without trace ... With a confidence rare for a debutant, Kim trusts readers to make the connections between the novel’s seemingly disparate scenes and to attend to the ripples that hint at turmoil just beneath the tranquil surface of Henrik’s prose ... Though Henrik’s social isolation is partly a product of his position as an ethnically Asian man in an overwhelmingly white culture, Kim’s novel remains a powerful exploration of universal feelings of loneliness and of profound disconnection from others ... Paris Is a Party, Paris is a Ghost, with its patchwork plot, otherworldly visitations, and high-wire performance of a tonal flatness that just fails to conceal the anguish beneath will likely try the patience of some readers too far. Those willing to immerse themselves in its mysterious and forlorn landscapes will be amply rewarded by this startlingly original debut.
RaveThe Irish Times (IRE)... a welcome return to form ... makes abundantly clear the extent to which Ishiguro values kindness and empathy over imagination and intelligence ... Paul and Klara’s discussions about whether there is such a thing as \'the human heart\' – \'something that makes each of us special and unique\' – make the novel’s larger philosophical concerns explicit. These concerns are at their most compelling, however, in Klara’s own narration, which blends comic interpretations of human behaviour with displays of extraordinary sensitivity and emotional intelligence, especially in the melancholic final pages, which show Ishiguro’s characteristic command of poignant understatement at its very best ... gathers up ingredients from Ishiguro’s most successful novels: the deft dramatisation of the thoughts and feelings of a narrator who knows more than they are able to acknowledge in The Remains of the Day; the devastating acquiescence to one’s own exploitation that animates Never Let Me Go; and even, in Klara’s struggles to comprehend the world around her, the evocation of profound disorientation found in Ishiguro’s most challenging work, The Unconsoled (which is less read and celebrated than it deserves) ... The result is a novel that is as unlikely to persuade the unconvinced as it is certain to satisfy Ishiguro’s devoted fans.
PositiveFinancial Times\"...a compelling exploration of the ethics and emotional contours of marital affection and sexual infidelity ... Despite a shared atmosphere of anxiety and suspicion, The Art of Falling is a more stylistically conventional work than Dinosaurs on Other Planets, mostly shorn of the menacingly fantastical, often surreal, imagery that characterised McLaughlin’s debut. There is also an undeniably melodramatic quality to the narrative ... What sets The Art of Falling apart, however, is the oblique dialogue between its rather histrionic narrative and the novel’s probing exploration of the nature of creativity, an exploration marked by a welcome frankness about the cant that so often surrounds art as well as a celebration of its raw emotive power ... McLaughlin is a master of charting the volatility of characters’ perceptions of themselves ... a gripping and thoughtful novel, taut with narrative suspense and brimming with emotional insight.\
PositiveThe Financial Times (UK)For the most part it does not disappoint ... If the novel has a fault, it is the self-indulgence with which it meditates on the arbitrariness of language, a philosophical theme ridden to exhaustion by postmodernist fiction of the 1960s and ’70s. It is difficult to imagine any but the most academic of readers caring much for the opening disquisition on the \'perfect dictionary\' ... It is only when the novel’s concern with the fickleness of language is explored with respect to the lives of Winceworth and Mallory that it becomes really compelling ... Where Williams really excels — other than in the assiduity with which she tests the power of language to articulate the world — is, on the one hand, in affectingly light-touched descriptions of tenderness and love, and, on the other, in the surreal rendering of comic scenes ... It seems likely that the sheer self-consciousness of Williams’s style will repel fully as many readers as it lures ... What is not open to doubt is that the intensity of Eley Williams’s imaginative vision — her capacity to tease the extraordinary from the ordinary — and her characteristically playful, occasionally preening but always warm prose single her out as one of the most promising young British writers to emerge in the past few years.
RaveThe Irish Times (IRE)McGuire has pulled off another gripping tale of violence, betrayal and vice ... The North Water, with its compellingly gruesome set-pieces, its cast of idiosyncratic characters, and its spectacular arctic scenes, has already been adapted for television ... The Abstainer’s equally explosive plot and more extensive use of razor-sharp dialogue make it, if anything, even more suited to adaptation ... At the same time, McGuire’s style in The Abstainer is comparatively pared back – leaner, more sculpted – leaving us with what in many ways feels like a less elevated, more conventional novel. At the same time, McGuire’s style in The Abstainer is comparatively pared back – leaner, more sculpted – leaving us with what in many ways feels like a less elevated, more conventional novel ... One hopes that in future works McGuire will give freer rein to his vividly corporeal prose ... nevertheless recognisably a novel by the author of The North Water, something most evident in the collection of radically nihilistic protagonists ... The novel’s evocation of the reek and bustle of Victorian Manchester is never less than atmospherically convincing, but The Abstainer is at its most powerful when probing the human need, no doubt timeless but felt particularly keenly at moments of impending calamity, to believe in some kind of ultimate arbiter of truth and morality in a seemingly chaotic and cruelly arbitrary world. McGuire seems to take a wry delight in having his characters engage in profound philosophical reflections when stone drunk or wired on drugs. No less current is the novel’s subtle scrutiny of the ways that a sense of belonging to two national cultures can, under conditions of crisis, quickly become a test of divided loyalties – an exploration that will doubtless be central to its interest for a good number of readers in Ireland and indeed elsewhere ... If The Abstainer seems less stylistically innovative and aesthetically ambitious than The North Water, it is, nevertheless, a superbly written novel; McGuire is undoubtedly a master of his medium and never puts a foot wrong. With its engrossing historical setting, frenzied plot, and impeccable prose, The Abstainer may well earn McGuire his widest readership yet.
RaveThe Irish Times (IRE)... is in many respects a more moving and more refined work, exhibiting the author’s facility for painting the contemporary world using a Gothic palette while paring back the propensity towards merely gratuitous strangeness or obscurity ... these moments of descriptive extravagance, far from seeming gratuitous, work brilliantly to chart intensities of emotional experience, conveying the rawness of childhood, the turbulence of teenage passion, the anaesthetising paralysis of depression and the claustrophobic oppressiveness of grief in ways that are never less than entirely convincing ... simply could not have been adequately told any other way. Johnson also seems to have become more confident in the pacing of her narrative, dwelling on apparently minor scenes and trusting to the taut and richly suggestive prose to hold the reader’s interest ... a simpler and more finely crafted novel that displays Johnson’s gifts in the very best light ... for all its warping of time and space and its unbridled flights of lyricism, Sisters demonstrates Johnson’s mature instinct for knowing when a novel needs to elaborate and when it needs to hold back. The haunting directness and simplicity of the final lines are nearly unrivalled in contemporary prose, keeping company with Kazuo Ishiguro or JM Coetzee at their best ... a small but perfectly formed novel ... Johnson’s predilection for the abject, the monstrous and the ominous are marshalled to real purpose, revealing a writer whose precocious talents seem bound only to increase with every new work.
J. M Coetzee
MixedThe Financial Times (UK)The Death of Jesus brings to a close JM Coetzee’s enigmatic trilogy, one of the strangest literary projects of the past decade ... beyond these rather loose connections, the relevance of Jesus to this trilogy is oblique at best. Rather, Coetzee’s real concern seems to lie in dramatising the all-too-human desire to find greater meaning in books and individuals’ lives than either can sustain ... The philosophical mood of the novel is at once central to its interest and perhaps its most alienating quality. Too many characters seem to speak in the same deliberative, quietly articulate, contrived way ... the result is a novel that is simply less involving than the Nobel laureate’s finest works, or even the other novels in the trilogy. It is also difficult to escape the feeling that issues Coetzee has explored so incisively elsewhere here never get off the ground ... Readers new to Coetzee would do better to turn their attention to the undisputed masterpieces of his oeuvre ... But for those hooked on his crystalline prose and probing explorations of ethical responsibility, The Death of Jesus is a necessary read, casting a strange new light on one of the world’s greatest and most elusive novelists
RaveFinancial TimesPorter’s second book, Lanny, is every bit as thrilling and bizarre [as his first novel] ... Lanny defies straightforward generic classification, with its shifts between continuous and lineated prose ... Though these strange forms might suggest that Lanny is a difficult book, it is, in fact, eminently readable—partly because of its dreamlike lucidity ... The most jarring aspect of Lanny is the juxtaposition of its fantastical cast of characters (reminiscent of Jim Crace in his stranger moods) and its unapologetically contemporary setting ... It is difficult not to see this as in some sense a \'post-Brexit\' book, which dramatizes and critiques a certain idea of national character. Sometimes this is not subtly done ... Lanny is an unabashedly peculiar little book. Some readers may find the strangeness of the form and Porter’s propensity for bizarre metaphors and lavish figurative language off-putting, even pretentious. But for those willing to suspend judgment about what a good novel \'should\' look like, it is a magically beguiling work, a triumph of artistic vision.
RaveThe Financial TimesJim Crace captures more concretely than perhaps any other writer the permanence of absence, Crace’s novels are nothing so straightforward as allegory; we are offered no takeaway messages or pat moralities.
A book at once full of wry humour and achingly sad, The Melody is every bit as strange, otherworldly, and finely wrought as readers have come to expect of Crace. This is a fine contribution to the oeuvre of perhaps the most underrated novelist writing in English today.
RaveFinancial Times...a ravishing tale of love ... This novel is every bit as strange and sensuous as Celt’s lyrical debut, The Daughters ... Despite its exceedingly dark subject matter, however, the novel possesses a human warmth that even Nabokov’s most tender novel, Pnin, never quite manages to achieve ... To write a homage to arguably the finest English-language prose stylist of the 20th century takes a great deal of nerve. Fortunately, Seattle-born Celt is an exquisite writer; her sentences take hold of you and will not let go ... Celt writes with great tenderness and humour ... The novel’s critique of Nabokov is as sharp as the admiration is intense ... The question invited by every homage is whether it merits being read by those who are unfamiliar with the source of inspiration. In the case of Invitation to a Bonfire, the answer is, emphatically, \'yes.\'