MixedThe Financial Times (UK)Recently the author Monica Ali spoke of the \'pitfalls to writing sex scenes\' because she feared resorting to words “like ‘throbbing’, ‘thrusting’, ‘member’”. In Ghost Lover, Taddeo appears to be so scared of these hackneyed terms that she has invented increasingly weirder descriptions ... to judge by the protagonists in Taddeo’s short stories, we have become stuck in the reappraisal phase, where sex is exposed as an ordeal rather than an enjoyable expression of better relations. As a satire on the vapidity of modern life, it is going over territory sharply described over 30 years ago by writers such as Brett Easton Ellis and Tama Janowitz. Taddeo’s stories can feel as hollow as the culture they are skewering ... This character hankered after a meaningful connection. And after reading this collection, so did I.
PositiveFinancial TimesThe book is an attempt to understand the purpose of emotions and how they affect us — as well as what we can do to control them ... He is fluent at blending personal stories, with case studies on plane crashes and trading floors as well as psychological and neuroscientific research. While I marvel at the skill that enables him to crunch so much information in a compelling way, I do wonder if such books targeting the general reader have become rather formulaic ... this exploration of the interplay of emotion and thought is fascinating ... The book even comes with a quiz section to analyse your emotional type ... One area that Mlodinow could have investigated more was the historical characterisation — and dismissal — of women as governed by their emotions ... Nonetheless, Emotional shows that rather than being counterproductive, emotions enrich our lives and understanding them better equips us to realise \'what it means to be humans.\'
PositiveThe Financial Times (UK)This bleak book is a bracing tour through the social and political context and impact of Twitter and Facebook, exploring Gamergate to Isis to Trump’s Twitter presidency ... In this dense, layered book, social media is characterised as a grim, mesmerising time-suck. In Seymour’s telling there are no casual users dipping into Facebook to comment on the cuteness of a friend’s puppy. Instead, social media in his view is dark and compelling ... Such addiction narratives have been well told already. More interesting is the writer’s questioning of techno-determinism — the belief that it is machines that are driving extreme behaviour, as if we were all helpless patsies incapable of switching off ... What saves this book from replacing techno-deterministic views with economic determinism is that the writer invites us to look at the psychological reasons. \'If this is a horror story, the horror must partly lie in the user,” he argues.\'
RaveFinancial TimesFor the reader, the invisible terror outside in Leave the World Behind echoes the sense of disquiet today in a world convulsed by the pandemic. There are intense parallels between the unreality of life in the Long Island bolt-hole described in the book and lockdown ... [Alam] is adept at drawing out the interior lives of the characters ... Alam acutely describes the visceral love of parenting ... Surprisingly, for a book about the ultimate holiday disaster, the characters’ relationships to their jobs are acutely defined. Work becomes a signifier about class, and reveals the characters’ motivations and beliefs ... the novel excels in its dissection of modern liberal America and forces the reader to confront the limits of their own heroism in the face of disaster.
RaveThe Financial Times (UK)\"The descriptions of repetitious domesticity are painful. \'Sometimes I thought this was the worst thing about being married: the way you get to know exactly what every tone means, every gesture, every single movement. Sometimes, even before this happened, I would long for a misunderstanding, to have no idea what he meant.\'...The strength of Hunter’s novel is its power to unsettle — the protagonist’s rage is disturbing, but so is her decision to exact an excruciating revenge rather than leave her husband altogether.\
RaveFinancial Times (UK)There is a coolness in the way she describes traumatic events. Such understatement also lends itself to wicked humour ... In another author’s hands, a Hollywood memoir would be pure titillation. What makes this stand out is its depiction of a specific place in time and the elegant restraint of its prose ... a cerebral twist on romance and a fitting end to an excellent book. The author’s happy-ever-after is of making peace with herself and having faith that things \'would be all right.\'
PositiveThe Financial TimesClaire is a sympathetic narrator, despite sinking under the pressure of a life that seems unfathomably frivolous to her family ... There are sharp observations about generational change, particularly on the topic of work ... The novel is a light read but it raises some timely issues ... Existential angst experienced by those finding their way in professional life is nothing new ... What is unusual about this novel is the absence of work. But, more than this, female protagonists grappling with their careers have traditionally been less well served by authors; work is usually eclipsed by romance ... This book offers a form of catharsis for anyone who has felt that they are not quite doing their job right. It may not deliver any answers, but it is soothing to find you are not the only one noodling along in your career.
PositiveThe Financial TimesThe reporting is deep — to live near her subjects, Taddeo moved her family across America — and the book is told from their point of view, largely in third person. It is meticulously, deliciously graphic without being titillating. Each story is compelling ... While Taddeo insists that women can be as \'bullish\' about the lust and thrust of sex as men, it is the emotional side that compels. The book is most eloquent on the women’s yearnings — the gaps between sex ... The literary quality of the book (the writing can be overblown) elevates the subject matter ... Taddeo reflects that \'it’s the nuances of desire that hold the truth of who we are at our rawest moments. I set out to register the heat and sting of female want so that men and other women might more easily comprehend before they condemn.\' That is her greatest achievement.
PositiveThe Financial TimesThe author is acutely perceptive on the mythology of motherhood and the chasms that can open between those with kids and those without. As she weighs up parenthood, she finds herself wanting to know why her mother had decided against a career. Yet as her mother’s health declines, she wrestles with the fact that her questions will go unanswered. MacNicol writes movingly about the frustrations.
RaveThe Financial Times\"The book chronicles Druckerman’s progression through her forties, tackling children, work, cancer, friendships and threesomes. In doing so, she learns self-acceptance but also that other adults are winging it too ... While men facing midlife crises might be mocked for sports cars and affairs, at least they are visible. Women’s experiences have too often been ignored — it is a frequent complaint that they feel invisible as their faces crease with age.\
PositiveFinancial TimesThe Happiness Curve by Jonathan Rauch comes served with hope, empathy and lashings of behavioural economics ... Rauch is an empathetic author: he knows what it is to be nagged by unease ... The book is a clear summation of the latest thinking on wellbeing and behavioural economics, deftly brought to life with case studies — though for the reader accustomed to the research much of the material will not be new. Rauch’s interpretation of the studies is fresher.
RaveThe Financial TimesIt has been billed as the novel for the #MeToo era, and it deftly interweaves the political with the personal, to subvert the old feminist mantra. It is a perfect riposte to those who lament that writing about feminism, harassment and relations between the sexes is dull. Wolitzer...does so with verve and wit. As she makes clear, surely misconduct and ambition are integral components of storytelling ... The author examines the delicate interplay between ambition and idealism, taking a swipe at elitist feminism. Yet she never loses sight of the characters’ relationships and skilfully chronicles the bumpy road of young love and professional malaise. The writing is clear and smart, never laboured or pleased with itself; there are so many well-crafted observations ... If #MeToo has knocked the reputations of a few literary giants, it is also creating—or, in the case of Wolitzer, cementing—new ones.
PositiveThe Financial TimesPao’s book, published two years after a difficult eight-month stint as chief executive of Reddit, gives her a platform to speak on diversity in tech, the focus of her advisory group Project Include. If the personal is political, then Reset is as political as it gets ... There is a temptation to compare Pao with Sandberg. Both are Silicon Valley authors addressing the barriers that women face in scaling the corporate ladder; both are wealthy and privileged beyond the dreams of most. Yet the books are very different. While Sandberg implores women to ask for the pay rise and push ahead, Pao sets out why this probably won’t be enough. She also addresses the intersection of race and gender throughout, something that Sandberg did not focus on ... Pao is a compelling narrator, sharing intimate stories such as her endometriosis and worries about conceiving, yet her manner is always restrained and businesslike — occasionally to a fault ... Only a few times does the book veer into preaching, such as when she recounts how her consciousness was raised by conversations she had about race in the Caribbean while on honeymoon. The fact that Pao lost her case poses a problem for the reader. Either you accept that the system is rigged or you discount everything the author has claimed. After reading this book, I am inclined to believe the former.
MixedThe Financial TimesPlenty of forests have died in the process of chronicling the plight of the white male Brooklyn writer, so it is refreshing to read a novel about a Brooklyn-dwelling woman that covers similar territory ... I didn’t want Andrea as a best friend, but I felt enriched by her take on the world. The novel’s denouement is sad and takes on an otherworldly quality. Yet there was something disappointingly conventional about it. After all of Andrea’s defiance of convention, you are left feeling that she is not forging a brave new world but, rather, shielding herself from emotional vulnerability.