PositiveThe Times Literary Supplement (UK)...not everything becomes clear, and for the reader – even more than for the narrator – there are areas of obscurity that seem impossible to penetrate. Ishiguro has made a striking effort to inhabit a non-human consciousness, and the way Klara perceives the world is in various respects entirely alien ... The effect is of a double estrangement – a strange perspective on a strange world – and it is often hard to build an even remotely clear mental picture of what’s supposed to be happening. It doesn’t help that Klara’s observations are delivered with Ishiguro’s usual aversion to precise physical detail ... The novel touches on themes to do with the ethics of AI, the problems of social inequality and the contradictions of parental love, but Ishiguro is much less a novelist of ideas than he is a virtuoso of mood music, and the prevailing tone is one of tenderness and gentle optimism ... Klara and the Sun is a pretty strange piece of work. In its mixture of high-concept sci-fi premiss and intimate human drama, the previous book by Ishiguro that it most obviously resembles is Never Let Me Go ... The new novel is less flamboyant in its flouting of literary norms, but it carries a similar sense of pervasive oddness ... wherever we situate Klara and the Sun in his oeuvre, its final emphasis, the impression it gives of quiet positivity, is radically different from anything else he has written.
MixedThe Times Literary Supplement (UK)I have to report that the finished product is a considerably weirder proposition than I’d been anticipating. For one thing, Inside Story doesn’t seem entirely sure of what sort of book it is … The result doesn’t feel like a plucky raid on the no man’s land between fiction and non-fiction so much as like several books (a novel, a memoir, a primer on style) glued haphazardly together, with a few additional bits and bobs thrown in … It is like watching a self-indulgent director’s cut of a favourite movie: twice the length of the theatrical version, and half the fun … As for the new material, it is of startingly uneven quality … But that’s enough complaining. Even the best Amis (which this obviously isn’t) can sail close to the rambling and bombastic, and even the worst (which this also isn’t) is stuffed full of classy sentences, catchy riffs and excellent jokes. Among the false fronts and dead-ends of this frequently maddening book bask plenty of lusty pleasures.
RaveThe Times Literary SupplementMantel has reimagined one of the least beloved figures in British history as one of the most extraordinary men of his age, and the age itself as a sort of horse-drawn gangsters’ paradise: a world of extreme brutality, where untold rewards are available to those with the strength and guile to go out and take them. In Mantel’s hands, the story of the Tudors loses all its heavy familiarity and starts to feel like a custom-built vehicle for her muscular prose and savage wit, not to mention her lifelong concern with violence and evil, religion and ghosts ... the page-by-page texture of the writing in The Mirror & the Light is just as rich and interesting as ever, the pacing and the distribution of scenes are just as lively, and the details every bit as funny ... This volume doesn’t perfectly tessellate with its predecessors, and reading the three novels back-to-back is at times a mildly woozying experience ... Hilary Mantel’s prodigious feat is to have given Cromwell another face, one that he might even have recognized as his own; she has cast a dazzling new light onto the tarnished mirror of the past.
MixedLondon Review of Books (UK)His fiction deals in exquisite perceptions and equivocal moods, and is constantly alert to emotional nuance ... One result of all these second thoughts is that we gain a much fuller understanding of the person thinking them. Greenwell’s sex scenes are remarkable in capturing what’s at stake for his narrator beyond an obvious physical pay-off ... But this psychological realism, along with the fussiness of expression...and insistence on clarity of detail...means that the porno set-ups lack porno swagger ... The tone is that of someone contending with matters of enormous moral heft. In What Belongs to You, the earnestness suited the somewhat harrowing plot, but here, when the subject matter is more varied, it starts to feel like a limitation, a prose style that paints happiness and heartache in the same shade of blue. The issue is one of sensibility: Greenwell is squeamish about joining in with his characters’ fun. When he praises Hollinghurst or O’Hara, it’s telling he doesn’t mention their humour. Comedy has no place in his credo about art.
RaveThe Times (UK)Extraordinary ... Power has an intelligent and confidently idiosyncratic approach to the form. His tone is generally affectless, but modulated with dry humour, and his images are sharply drawn and often haunting. There is an obsessive quality to the best of these stories that makes them feel pregnant with inscrutable meaning. Many of them, even those that deal exclusively with adult characters, have the bittersweet mood, the uncanny logic and the peculiar sheen of childhood memory ... when I reached the end, I was close to tears and felt compelled to reread the first two stories in the sequence, the better to appreciate how Eva’s life came so dramatically off the rails. It is testament to the depth and distinctiveness of Power’s characters that it seems so important to try to understand them, even as they fail to understand themselves.
Jean Moorcroft Wilson
MixedThe Guardian (UK)This sober biography includes convincing readings of his poetry, but it takes Graves’s charismatic lover to set the narrative alight ... Her treatment of Graves’s prose is rather less convincing than her readings of his poetry ... Moorcroft Wilson gives an excellent account of the folie à deux that led to the collapse of most of Graves’s friendships, and eventually to Riding hurling herself out of a fourth-floor window, followed by Graves from a window one floor down. The trouble is that by placing this combination of sex and violence at the end of her book, where it inevitably feels like the climax of Graves’s story, Moorcroft Wilson scuppers her stated objective of shifting \'the emphasis back to … the first world war\'.
MixedLondon Review of BooksPerry’s characters have...become blessedly nastier ... Black magic, diabolical curses, ghoulish apparitions: these phenomena aren’t often found in books that have something to say about real-life atrocities. And Perry has ... The contrasting voices in the Melmoth dossier allow Perry to exercise her talent ... But the writing becomes increasingly uniform, and every time Melmoth appears it takes a turn for the worse ... It’s hard to know what to make of a novel in which denying the resurrection of Christ and condemning a Jewish family to Theresienstadt can result in the same fate. But Perry’s moral project isn’t limited to doling out punishments for her wicked characters ... it’s not just witnessing but bearing witness—in other words, providing testimony—that the novel asks us to see as virtuous. There’s a type of writing which does exactly that, and it isn’t Gothic horror. It seems that this extravagantly fantastical book, full of manufactured mysteries and supernatural shocks, wants to be read as a vindication of the rights of journalism.
MixedThe Times...the rarest of literary beasts: a work with proper avant-garde credentials whose warmest reception might well be among gossip columnists ... Having introduced her characters so vividly, Halliday does little to develop them, and keeps hitting the same few beats. Most frustratingly, we get only occasional glimpses of Alice’s inner life ... Asymmetry is a clever and provocative mix of the kind of writing that gets read as autobiographical, and the kind that doesn’t. But it’s a bit of a lopsided read.
PanThe Financial TimesEggers is an engaging storyteller, with a sure sense of character (Paul and Ana are especially lively creations, entirely credible as children and touchingly confident in their mother) and a keen eye for the bizarre ... He displays a lack of confidence about holding his readers’ attention, and employs a range of cheap devices. He often proceeds by presenting information misleadingly ... You soon start to wonder if Eggers knows where he’s going with all this: he often seems as lost as Josie is, and like her, he’s doing whatever it takes just to stay on the move.