RaveThe Boston GlobeThe Accidental is a thoroughly charming and melodic novel, but you shouldn't let either of those qualities get in the way of its fierceness or its metaphysical precision … Some of the explanation for Smith's satiny accomplishment lies with the authenticity of the voices. Astrid, ‘typical and ironic,’ as she would say, is slightly fey and completely captivating, particularly when she goes from armor-clad to vulnerable. Magnus is a math whiz who breaks the world into acceptable calculations: The world is getting darker, he knows, as a result of pollution and leached-out sunlight the same thing that's happened to his own soul. While the adult Smarts may be less sympathetic, Smith depicts them with such exacting care that you even feel a bit sorry for old lecherous Michael … The novel is small and glistening, one confident little shooting star instead of a cumbersome light show.
PositiveThe Boston GlobeTwilight of the Superheroes contains six stories, each of them tinged with sorrow and want and the missed trains of life. They range in plot from a group of young New Yorkers blinded by the events of 9/11 to a seemingly ditzy woman escaping the gilded misery of her marriage; family — the people we choose or have to deal with — is the connective grout here, whether cracked or holding … The agility of Eisenberg's compassion is what provides her work with its emotional heft.
RaveThe Boston Globe...wrenching, funny, smart, and hugely gratifying in unexpected ways … Virginal jitters notwithstanding, we know from the outset that theirs will be a marriage with plenty of hurdles to clear: Because the author cross cuts between Edward's and Florence's alternating points of view, their disparate (and largely unexpressed) inner narratives weave toward and away from each other like drunks in a bar fight. They've chosen to love each other for all the touching and wrong reasons that define the game … On Chesil Beach is as merciful to its characters as it is merciless in its heartbreak. Their bruised pasts and querulous hopes unfold beautifully through the novel, almost destined to collide and then fade into the sorrow of real life.
MixedThe Boston GlobeHazzard is capable of displaying more casual intelligence in a sentence or paragraph than some novels might achieve in a chapter...but her magnificent voice, which in Transit of Venus assumed a tenor of authority, has taken on an imperious quality here; stylistic quirks – half-sentences and tangential hypotheses – now sound weary as often as they do well conceived. The effect can be specifically dazzling but wholly episodic, even with the straightforward love story at the novel's center … While the burgeoning affair between Helen and Leith is gratifying in a sort of tweedy, warm-hearth way, it also strains the contemporary imagination to accept it wholeheartedly, without irony or foreboding. But that's how Hazzard has chosen to present her lovers, their farewell to arms being a sort of fair trade for having lived through horror and loss. One is left with a rather gauzy sense of consequence, more contrived and thin than its larger subject requires.
MixedThe Boston Globe...a piece of violent poetry – an autumnal, elegiac novel whose desolate story is carried along by the sweet and stormy tides of its exquisite, sometimes too exquisite, prose … Never did a novel seem so fey from its beginning, with its dark, raging tides and its white-haired children, and yet the power of Banville's prose – as gorgeously formidable as the cliffs on the Irish Sea – distracts us from the truth, which is that the narrator, unlucky bloke that he may be, is not a likable man … The Sea is treacherously smart, and haunting, and its story of a ravaged self in search of a reason to go on is cloaked in wave after wave of magnificent but hardly consoling prose.
PositiveThe Boston GlobeMichael Cunningham saw gold in Whitman, saw delusion and possibility both, and has thus made him the sparkling sheen that forms Specimen Days and hovers throughout it ...emulates the spirit of Whitman...is actually three self-contained stories, or novellas, set in different centuries, with iconic figures who reappear in each: a wounded holy child, a merciful mother figure, an Odyssean male ... This Whitmanesque vision of America, a place mesmerizing even its tragedies, links Cunningham's triptych with almost casual grace, so that history repeats itself with startling allusion and precision...the many gifts of Specimen Days is the detailed finery with which Cunningham pulls all this off ...might be disappointed with this novel. It isn't seamless, and each story has a slightly fleeting feel, as though we are leaving one too soon to get to the next. But there's a quality of plain old pleasure here, too.
PositiveThe Boston GlobeA tricultural collision awaits Gogol from his first few days of life. He has to endure a Russian name he cannot bear in an America he cannot penetrate with Indian parents he cannot fully accept or understand. All these ambiguities make for a novel of exquisite and subtle tension, spanning two generations and continents and a plethora of emotional compromises in between. Lahiri's subject, here and in her stories, is the loneliness of dislocation, and part of the reason her work succeeds is that her voice is as quiet as the atmosphere of displacement she evokes.
PositiveThe Boston GlobeIt's a river trip back down into the heart of darkness that belongs to every war, but was Vietnam writ in Day-Glo script … Because the Vietnam War itself was a mass of conflagrations, tragedy, and mayhem slugging it out under a starless sky, Johnson has wisely chosen to fling his novel in several directions at once … In a novel of this length and span, it's the authorial sensibility that mandates the story, and Johnson's is aptly fitted to the ‘vampire mausoleum’ that was Vietnam: He captures the Machiavellian folly and addictive nightmare of the war as well as its walk off the cliff into darkness.
PositiveThe Boston GlobeCormac McCarthy's dark and careful novel is sprawled across the southwestern borderlands of Texas, territory nobody much travels and where there's not a lot to write home about anyway … McCarthy is not shy about reaching toward grander themes; there's something apocalyptic about this novel from the outset, and Sheriff Bell's wife – an implausibly noble woman named Loretta – is cheerfully reading the Book of Revelation by novel's end … At its best, No Country for Old Men is a simple, heartsore story: one of an old Army salt with a daughter he misses and a wife he loves, and a mean-eyed killer who moves with the force of RoboCop.