RaveThe Irish Times (IRE)One strand of it could be plucked from Jane Austen in the way the characters struggle to interpret each other’s desires and in its shape as a good old-fashioned marriage plot. Henry James is a ghostly presence. Rooney, hailed as the voice of the young, is very deliberately placing herself in venerable company ... For another writer, all of this might amount to an exercise in literary nostalgia or insupportable hubris. But what makes it so intriguing here is that Rooney’s characters are emphatically not Isabel Archer or Elizabeth Bennett ... Rooney takes the very considerable risk of allowing Alice’s experiences to mirror, in career terms, her own ... The obvious risk here is that of a \'poor me\' solipsism. But Rooney counters it with a passionate and searching inquiry into the connection between the problem of writing and the problem of living ... At times the essay weighs too heavily on the fiction ... But Rooney’s prose—cool, transparent, almost scientific in its rigour—makes the story work, sentence by sentence. For all Alice and Eileen’s despair at the inadequacy of public language, Rooney is always making the opposite case with her clarity of expression. Even when her characters are overwrought, her writing never is ... They find their way, in other words, into a classic 19th-century novel. Fortunately for them, and for us, it is a very good one, written with immense skill and illuminated by an endlessly incisive intelligence.
RaveThe Irish Times (IRE)... wonderfully vivid ... a formidable challenge but [Shapiro] meets it with tremendous narrative skill and analytic power. That he does so in 300 entirely accessible and compulsively readable pages is little short of miraculous ... The book works so well because Shapiro does not attempt a continuous history. He applies the method of his previous books, which is to focus on single moments and pursue their meanings with forensic archival rigour and brilliant critical close reading. But here there is an added layer of contemporary urgency: Shapiro does not hide his distress at the current plight of American politics and culture ... a colourful and dynamic kaleidoscope of American divisions. This is superb theatre history but it is also an outstanding work of history, full stop. Shapiro shows us that Shakespeare is a cracked mirror in which the US continually glimpses its divided selves. It is hard to imagine anyone better able to discern what it reflects.
PositiveThe New York Review of BooksMichael Lewis’s The Fifth Risk ... does something both brave and highly intelligent: it looks at Trump not straight but crooked. He is hardly in the book at all and yet it tells us...about the long-term damage he is doing ... Lewis points toward a much deeper assault on government itself ... The Fifth Risk is a passionate, even earnest, book about people who have worked as public servants for the federal government and the things they worry about. But it is also a challenge to think about not who Trump is but what he is doing, to see how, in some important respects, the phrase \'the Trump administration\' is an oxymoron ... In drawing attention to what public service is and how it is being abused, Michael Lewis has himself done the public a considerable service.