PositiveThe Irish Times (IRE)Devoid of both sentimentality and melodrama, this memoir gives away no great family secret; no sordid or intimate details of love affairs. But the stripped back prose, the factual relating, makes it all the more engaging. It’s so starkly real that although about a writer’s life, it will appeal to anyone who’s never made even a one-year plan or anyone who’s ever felt guilt about imposing on people ... Attenberg’s reflections on the extraordinary at the heart of the ordinary may speak to everyone but it is upon artists, especially writers, that she bestows her greatest insights ... One quibble perhaps is that the middle section of the book could have been clipped. We get it, Jami, you were travelling a lot and it was very wearing – no need to make the reader lose the will to live too ... an insightful, exploratory read.
PositiveIrish Independent (IRE)Beautiful prose aside, this book is challenging, discombobulating and downright confounding. We often seek to pigeonhole, to neatly describe books, but Checkout 19 won’t allow that. It has no narrative arc, no plot structure to speak of, and yet it is very absorbing. The narrator’s thoughts jump and repeat and yet we stay with her throughout. This is a refreshingly authentic mind map of a life in writing. Not one for those who want a clear and entertaining storyline, but intriguing nonetheless.
RaveThe Independent (IRE)There is no clear distinction to be made between John Banville’s crime novels and his other fiction. There is the same elegant pacing, crafted prose and detailed examination of relationships—personal, social and political—that won him the Booker Prize ... The book is not a mile-a-minute crime thriller. Banville calls the reader to take time, to savour the intricate descriptions of people and place ... This is a slow-burning mystery, a love story and a study of the corruption and power of the Irish political elite—quite a lot to pack into one crime novel. Banville has achieved it with grace and poise.
MixedThe Irish Independent (IRE)[McGregor\'s] clean, sparse prose is on full display in Lean Fall Stand ... While the repetitive and exhausting grind is well and unsentimentally described, perhaps it didn’t need to be laid out in quite so much detail ... The surfeit of humdrum details and the dearth of emotional connection leaves an otherwise well-crafted book rather more sterile than it needed to be.
RaveThe Irish Independent (IRE)What Julie Kavanagh has done here is to bring this most extraordinary of assassinations to life ... The research is meticulous. There are some 150 pages detailing all of the interested parties and the history behind the political situation in London and Dublin before we even get to the murders themselves ... It’s not all dry historical record either. Rather, Kavanagh casually drops in those personal details that bring characters and history into the real world ... Crucially, the details of private correspondences, personality traits and personal grievances are not mere salacious ornamentation. They are essential to the provision of a true picture of what led to the murders and their aftermath ... The writing is clear and yet warm, leaving the reader in no doubt as to how much personalities, foibles and mere coincidence affect law, politics and history ... This is one of the best researched and most enjoyable historical reads I have come across in quite some time.
RaveThe Irish Independent (IRE)The tastes, smells, sounds and touch of various moments, time periods and locations are so vivid that readers might well feel that they had actually experienced these things themselves. Ben’s mental health problems and internal chatter are particularly well expressed — sympathetically but without the usual recourse to melodrama ... Spufford elevates time’s passage to an almost spiritual experience. This could become tiresome and sluggish in the hands of a less deft, less emotionally present author, but here it is a thing of beauty — elegant but completely devoid of pretension. And so easy to read ... London — its characteristics, its people, its sheer energy — is captured on every page. If you’re a lover of that heaving mass of humanity, you will be pleased ... Given the starting point — the purposeless cutting short of the lives of this crowd of innocent, ordinary people — you could expect this book to be heavy going. And there is an underlying poignancy because we know that these intricate, hearty lives were never lived past that day in 1944...Yet this is a light-filled, uplifting book. Original in its themes and structure, it is food for the spirit. A meditation on time, life and death, almost. A realistic ode to life itself in all its horror and joy that, strangely, leaves the reader with a profound sense of peace.
A. N. Wilson
PositiveThe Irish Times (IRE)Rather than shying away from the seedier aspects of Dicken’s secret life, Wilson revels in exposing the double standards of the man and the times in which he lived ... Wilson builds a nuanced picture of the marriage and its breakdown ... While the book’s subject matter is fascinating and the research impressive, there are technical flaws – unnecessary reiteration of established facts and Wilson’s over-fondness for certain words. Who knew that \'pantomimic\' could be used so often in one book? ... Faulty editorial decisions aside, this book will be an exhilarating read for both Dickens aficionados and those who have only a passing familiarity with his work. For the former, it’s a truly detailed examination of the author’s life, works and times. For the latter, the story of a strange and mysterious life led in the public eye may encourage the reading of Dickens’s work.
RaveThe Irish Times (IRE)Throughout this collection, we get up close and personal with the inner (and sometimes frighteningly outer) workings of both Irby’s body and mind ... There’s a lot of self-deprecation and this can, at first, be grating. Do we really need another fat woman laughing at herself, no matter how hilarious? There’s a certain amount of tuning-in to be done, to get into the flow of Irby’s razor-sharp mind and writing style. But soon you will find yourself on a rip-roaring tour through Irby’s life, filled with honesty, belly laughs and more than a few poignant and hard-hitting moments ... Using refreshingly different essay forms throughout the book, Irby avoids reader exhaustion – a real risk because this is high-octane stuff ... The humour is so vivid, with so many laugh-out-loud moments, there’s a real danger that the excellence of Irby’s writing could be obscured. Is the writing perfect? Not by any means, but it gets to the heart of each issue with aplomb. It is a very human book and it left me wanting more of Irby and her work.