PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewMantel Pieces, which includes nearly 30 years of Mantel’s essays for The London Review of Books, accompanied by facsimiles of her correspondence with its editors, is the story of an outsider finding her literary home ... A good third of Mantel Pieces is devoted to kings and queens and courtiers, another third to the revolutionaries who are out to string them up. It’s clear where Mantel’s sympathies lie: Royals are mythic, archaic, \'both gods and beasts,\' but it’s their assassins — the stiff-backed, lawyerly, provincial fanatics — whom she loves ... My favorite sentence in this book is uncharacteristically quiet, almost plaintive, let fall sotto voce in the middle of a hospital-bed memory: \'I wonder, though, if there is a little saint you can apply to, if you are a person with holes in them?\' ... I suspect we all are people with holes in them, and there are many saints to apply to. For those who feel compelled to examine not just their own \'perforations\' but the world’s, St. Hilary is your woman.
Marie Ndiaye, trans. by John Fletcher
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewIt is, however, the book’s middle novella — a masterpiece of narrative ingenuity and emotional extremes — that proves NDiaye to be a writer of the highest caliber ... NDiaye is a hypnotic storyteller with an unflinching understanding of the rock-bottom reality of most people’s lives. This clearsightedness — combined with her subtle narrative sleights of hand and her willingness to broach essential subjects like the fate of would-be migrants to the rich North — gives her fiction a rare integrity that shines through the sinuous prose. (Slightly less sinuous in John Fletcher’s occasionally stilted translation, which is a little too slow to warm up: the book’s only flaw) ... Yet through these distorting lenses of madness and deprivation, NDiaye manages nonetheless to convey a redemptive realism about how the world works, and what makes people tick.
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewThe Man Who Saw Everything is a gently ironic title. Yes, Saul sees everything — in part because he’s seen it all before — but he understands nothing. It’s a risky device, employing as first-person narrator an amnesiac narcissist, a narcissist moreover who isn’t even an outsize baddie but merely indifferent, self-pitying. The price is that the other characters in Levy’s novel remain figures from a Greek chorus whose chief function is to remind Saul, in vain, not to forget the canned pineapple or to look both ways before he crosses the street ... Deborah Levy, one of the most intellectually exciting writers in Britain today, has produced in this perplexing work a caustically funny exploration of history, perception, the nature of political tyranny and how lovers can simultaneously charm and erase each other.
Giorgio Bassani, Trans. by Jamie McKendrick
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewGiorgio Bassani belongs to that extraordinary flowering of Italian Jewish writers, from Natalia Ginzburg to Primo Levi, who came of age under Fascism and thus grew up skeptical, allergic both to absolutism and pious rhetoric ... Bassani, in these cultivated worldly-wise stories, so steeped in tenderness, rage and loss, is like someone returned from the underworld to bear witness. His Novel of Ferrara is an uneven enterprise. The two collections of short stories (Within the Walls and The Smell of Hay) aren’t the equal of the four sublime novellas, and McKendrick’s translation is a little less felicitous, say, than William Weaver’s earlier renditions of The Heron and Behind the Door. Nonetheless, Bassani’s history of the \'little segregated universe\' from which he was expelled is essential reading for anyone thirsting for an understanding of the complex density of Europe’s multicultural inheritance, or wondering whether the world we know might once again be falling for the temptations of fascism.
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewMolly McCloskey...brings a hyper-lucid wistfulness to the genre. Her novel’s title may sound jokey, but her book is dead serious about the losses entailed in a marriage’s undermining ... [protagonist] Alice, we may come to feel, has been approaching both her marriage and her affair semi-ironically, playing at being the stay-at-home wife with matching candlesticks, playing at being the adulteress addicted to secrecy and ruin. The real heartbreak in this wise, discomfiting novel turns out to be the love between mother and daughter — a daughter early damage has driven to exile in a hard place.
RaveThe New York TimesLike Spiegelman's Maus, Satrapi's book combines political history and memoir, portraying a country's 20th-century upheavals through the story of one family. Her protagonist is Marji, a tough, sassy little Iranian girl, bent on prying from her evasive elders if not truth, at least a credible explanation of the travails they are living through ... It is the war with Iraq that is this book's climax and turning point. Satrapi is adept at conveying the numbing cynicism induced by living in a city under siege both from Iraqi bombs and from a homegrown regime that uses the war as pretext to exterminate 'the enemy within' ... Satrapi's drawing style is bold and vivid. She paints a thick inky black-on-white, in a faux-naïf pastiche of East and West.
PositiveThe New York Times Book Review...a kind of postmodern mystery in which we end up with a dead body, evidence of a violent crime, an abundant trail of clues and even angry mourners, yet nobody feels compelled to pursue the investigation ... Lots of things in A Separation are just ciphers for other infractions, other codes that the novel’s 'outsiders' — its narrator included — have unwittingly violated. In the hierarchical world of Kitamura’s novel, there is little love or friendship between equals, only manipulation and control, guilt and obedience, humiliation and submission. And behind these power games, one detects an overriding fatalism about the possibility of human connection ... It is this radical disbelief — a disbelief, it appears, even in the power of art — that makes Kitamura’s accomplished novel such a coolly unsettling work.
MixedThe New York Times Book Review“The Past can feel blurry, with too much prosaic spelling out of what her characters are feeling. Nonetheless, Hadley’s many fans will welcome this solid addition to her continuing narrative of how brainy women and blundering men negotiate the slippery class and sex wars of modern-day Britain.