RaveNew Statesman (UK)From the relationship between the two writers, Power develops a tense and unsettling narrative ... the reader can’t be sure how much derives from Robert’s imagination. Another layer of uncertainty comes from the small, strange things that start to happen in Robert’s life ... Power’s plain style, direct and precise, allows him to move easily between the different storylines while conveying a noirish moral ambiguity. The chapter set in London is a moving portrayal of bewilderment and grief ... A Lonely Man is a gripping novel that balances political intrigue with personal danger. It is also a melancholy portrayal of male solitude and community. Power gives us not just one lonely man but many, spread out across Europe and offering one another guarded, intermittent, and ultimately insufficient friendship.
Samanta Schweblin, trans. by Megan McDowell
PositiveNew Statesman (UK)It’s a clever structure, allowing Schweblin to investigate all the things that a kentuki might be—is it a pet? a spy? a co-parent, a money-spinner, an alter ego?—as well the various thrills and dangers that such a technology might offer ... Schweblin’s language is plain, verging on the colloquial, allowing the narrator to stay close to the perspectives of the keepers and dwellers. Generally, the chapters focusing on the latter are more successful, conveying the weirdness and poignancy of existing in two bodies at once ... Schweblin’s skipping around between characters and places means that her portrayal of technology’s capabilities is broad rather than deep. While this lack of depth may not be to every reader’s taste, the novel’s breadth provides much of its pleasure, allowing an inventiveness that balances the bleakness of its characters’ lives.
PositiveThe New Republic...the most autobiographical essays in Trick Mirror are those that most steadfastly reject distress, adopting instead a slightly distanced optimism. They give the impression of an author who believes that our most private and painful experiences are often not, in fact, the ones through which we learn the most ... The tone of these essays can partly be attributed to Tolentino’s temperament. \'I value control almost as a matter of etiquette—as an aesthetic,\' she says at one point, and it’s true that her writing, lively and funny and poignant as it often is, resists big emotional crescendos ... Some of the hand-wringing in Trick Mirror may go too far. Criticizing something can bring it to a larger audience, but the alternative—a world in which writers only cover subjects of which they approve, ignoring the complicated, the compromised, and the outright pernicious—is not preferable. Elsewhere, the hand-wringing seems to substitute for action that is not, in fact, beyond reach ... The speed with which Tolentino wraps up her essays after grappling with her complicity suggests that this question is unanswerable ... The most effective essays in Trick Mirror are those that encourage us to be suspicious, and to look for the moments when we can act—without self-flagellation or declarations of virtue—on those suspicions, rather than on our desires.
PositiveNew StatesmanSpring, though as full of Smith’s trademark puns as its companion volumes, is an altogether darker novel ... The tone is set by the opening three pages, a brilliantly menacing sequence of demands made by an unnamed collective voice ... The novel goes on to offer a powerful confrontation with the atrocities that have taken place, and continue to take place, on British soil ... Among living writers, Smith is almost unparalleled in her use of puns, but when they appear in the mouth of every character, they begin to lose their appeal.
PositiveNew Statesman America...excellent ... Sittenfeld has specialised in reserved, watchful narrators who want desperately to fit in, even as they pass judgement on those around them ... Even in the stories narrated in the third person, Sittenfeld never allows us into the consciousness of any characters other than her protagonists. She’s interested in the expectations and values of social worlds, but specifically as they are navigated by a single individual ... We see a number of overwhelmed mothers, but these women are very different from the feminist writer-mothers recognisable from recent works by Jenny Offill, Elena Ferrante and Elisa Albert: Sittenfeld’s women are mourning the loss of romance and adventure from their lives.