RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewThe novel delights not with surprise, but by pursuing its course of action with precision and purpose. Hargrave spares the reader no gory details, whether of birth, miscarriage or the scent of a body burning at the stake. The Mercies is among the best novels I’ve read in years. In addition to its beautiful writing, its subject matter is both enduring and timely ... as appropriate to its historical context as it is to our time.
G. Willow Wilson
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewAn adept writer of historical fiction, Wilson relies less on period detail than on vivid, multisensory description ... brilliantly reimagines the fall of Muslim Granada to the same superpower that prosecuted the Inquisition and colonized the Western Hemisphere. Although told from the point of view of a young woman considered chattel, it’s not merely a critique of imperialism or patriarchy. For one thing, it’s too funny ... A warm, generous spirit underlies the entire novel ... maintains a delicate balance between holding Fatima’s world in high regard, looking at it critically and finding its moments of humor, all the while revealing its many resemblances to the world as it exists today.
Kenji Miyazawa, Trans. by John Bester
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewMuch of the material in Once and Forever fulfills a reader’s expectations of fairy tales. Miyazawa’s subject matter is at times gloomy (betrayal and death feature prominently) and often otherworldly ... Like the tales of Andersen and the Grimms, many of the stories in Once and Forever may appeal to children: the sort of thoughtful, dark-minded children who like Neil Gaiman’s Coraline. But adults will be the primary audience for the shivers of disturbance these stories send up the spine ... The swift evocations of the landscape, good humor about human foibles...and sparks of magic only make these stories more touching. At times, the prose can feel fusty and twee, especially in creaky turns of phrase ... Lacking familiarity with Japanese, it’s hard to know if the tinge of mildew comes from the original text...or the taste of the translator. From the antique tone of the introduction, one suspects the latter. Nevertheless, for readers who relish the disturbing material of fairy tale, the specificity and surprise of tanka, collisions of the everyday with the supernatural and glimpses of Japan right on the brink of industrialization, this English volume of Kenji Miyazawa’s odd, masterly stories will be a delight.
Mark Z. Danielewski
PanThe Village VoiceJohnny’s experience reading Zampanò’s House of Leaves is actually a lot like the experience of reading Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves. Zampanò’s behemoth is clogged with the kind of preening pseudo-erudition that keeps many academic books from being read outside the academy … although I hesitate to excuse Danielewski’s deliberate obfuscations, it makes some thematic sense that one should have to work to get at the core of House of Leaves … Like last year’s film The Blair Witch Project, House of Leaves is at once worth trying to fathom and inexplicably overhyped, overstylized, and difficult. Danielewski’s bloated and bollixed first novel certainly attempts to pass itself off as an ambitious work; the question for each reader is if the payoff makes the effort of slogging through its endless posturing worthwhile.
Amos Oz, Trans. by Nicholas de Lange
RaveThe New York Times Book Review\"The book’s prose is meticulous, almost pre-modern. This and the plot’s stillness — days pile up, but many of the novel’s \'events\' are Shmuel’s realizations — make reading Judas feel a bit like reading Thomas Bernhard without the misanthropy ... Wald’s monologues are enchanting, part of what makes Judas a successful novel of ideas. Oz doesn’t overdo it, though. By folding Shmuel’s thoughts into the text’s narrative fabric, he allows them to double as the character’s ideas and the novel’s own ... Oz pitches the book’s heartbreak and humanism perfectly from first page to last, as befits a writer who understands how vital a political role a novelist can play.\
Muriel Barbery, Trans. by Alison Anderson
MixedThe New York TimesObscurity may be its downfall, in both individual sentences and as a whole. Despite Alison Anderson’s skillful translation, Barbery’s images can unspool into incomprehensible abstractio ... Of course, novels needn’t be rooted in a specific time and place, but Barbery’s conflicting hints may distract readers from more important considerations. As often as The Life of Elves confounds, in its many moments of weird lucidity it also beguiles. It’s then that Barbery explores the mystical connections between nature, art and the human heart with vividness and clarity.