RaveThe Guardian (UK)Chronicles is written in what critics would describe as a \'late style\': a bit prolix, often dilatory and anecdotal. It is also courageous, and it does name names and point fingers. One of the delights is the ease with which Soyinka switches between registers, from the elevated to the absurd, along with his unapologetic use of \'Nigerianisms\' and Yoruba vernacular. There is a long monologue in pidgin English near the end of the book where a steward, Godsown, gives a hilarious account of a crime he has witnessed. Perhaps the writer’s personality looms larger than any character he portrays, but then, as most readers will tell you, that is exactly what they want from Soyinka: the witty anecdotes, the digressions, even the famous linguistic obscurity and bombast. There is a restless intellectual energy here that belies the age of the author ... a good model for what the political novel should be: fearless, disdaining formal constraints, sparing no one, leaving behind it a scorched earth littered with the burnt figures of corrupt politicians and military dictators and religious charlatans and social parasites, and even the masses who, in the name of religion and tribe, are made tools of the elite. In the end, it is a triumph of the novel as a form: its ability to accommodate all styles and approaches. How lucky we are that Soyinka has decided to give that form another go.
MixedThe Guardian (UK)... reads in part like a series of continuing fights, all carefully curated and presented to readers in book form. It is written in short, punchy chapters, which bear all the characteristics of tweets: brief, sharp, audacious and controversial ... There is a lack of modesty and a lack of self-awareness that is almost fascinating here; fascinating in the way a car crash in slow motion is fascinating. You just can’t look away. Sometimes you can’t look away because of the garish self-advertisement, other times it is simply for the brilliance of the writing. For all their self-obsession and narcissism, this is an author who can write. There are beautiful reflective passages on love, betrayal, loneliness, spirituality and friendship; unfortunately, there just aren’t enough of them.
Yasmina Khadra, tr. John Cullen
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewThe rest of the novel is just as direct and irresistible as this first line — every subsequent sentence, in this translation by John Cullen, is carefully designed to draw you in and lead you into the next one ... Khadra does a great job of guiding us through the stages of Khalil’s radicalization. Xenophobia, Islamophobia, poverty, family dysfunction: All of the usual triggers are examined, but the author goes further, to show that radicalization is not inevitable. Often it is a matter of choice, a way to embrace bitterness and anger over adaptation and personal accountability ... in this novel full of plot twists, the author saves his biggest shock for the end ... This novel is both timely and, sadly, timeless. In examining the anatomy of radicalism, Khadra shows that all forms of extremism, whether political, religious or otherwise, stem from the same source: a refusal to see things from an opposing point of view. For Khalil and many others who feel called to commit atrocities in the name of a higher cause, the outcome is only tragedy.
RaveThe Guardian (UK)One day at the river they meet the local oddball, Abulu, who has the power of prophecy, and who predicts that Ikenna, the eldest, will be killed by one of his brothers; by a \'fisherman\'. It is from this simple, almost mythological conceit that Chigozie Obioma’s debut novel grows, gaining complexity and power as it rises to its heartbreaking climax ... The Fishermen mixes the traditional English novel form with the oral storytelling tradition, dramatising the conflict between the traditional and the modern. But The Fishermen is also grounded in the Aristotelian concept of tragedy ... But as in all good tragedies, after the prophecies and the omens, it is character and logic and moral choices that drive the story to its conclusion.
PositiveThe Guardian... ambitious ... Perhaps the most powerful and lasting image in this beautifully executed novel is that of the enslaved—or the Tasked, as Coates prefers to call them—who take their destiny into their own hands. They refuse to suffer in dignified silence, or sing hymns and hope for divine intervention; in fact, Coates’s vision here is a very secular one. Sometimes he seems to be making a subtle dig at faith-based abolitionist organisations; for if the church was helpful in freeing the slaves, it had also been complicit in justifying slavery.
Novuyo Rosa Tshuma
RaveThe GuardianThis Zimbabwean debut is not an easy book to describe. To call it clever or ambitious is to do it a disservice – it is both, but also more than that. It is definitely not faultless, but it is large enough and unusual enough to shrug off its defects and still leave the reader impressed ... not a book for the faint-hearted ... There are no heroes here, only people forced by circumstances to perform the most unspeakable acts to survive ... Sometimes the book is too dizzying: as soon as we have accepted one revelation we are blindsided by another ... Tshuma is incapable of writing a boring sentence: she inhabits her narration so totally that even the most absurd and silly actions become believable. The wordplay and absurdist plot lines act as comic relief, but the author never lets us forget the serious stuff even for a minute, and it is this balance that makes the book work. By the end she has managed to not only sum up Zimbabwean history, but also all of African colonial history: from devastating colonialism to the bitter wars of independence to the euphoria of self-rule and the disillusionment of the present. It is an extraordinary achievement for a first novel.
PositiveThe Guardian\"With Nollywood-like storylines and clever turns in plot, the book paints an entertaining and funny picture of Lagos life and Nigerian politics ... We sense Onuzo’s attempt to go against the conventional wisdom of Lagos. Greed is countered with charity, selfishness is juxtaposed with altruism. She seems to be imposing a traditional African moral vision on the city, and maybe even expressing a wishful vision of her country, of different \'tribes\' living harmoniously under one roof, each striving for the betterment of the whole. Onuzo’s portrayal of human character is often too optimistic, her view of politics and society too charitable; but her ability to bring her characters to life, including the city of Lagos, perhaps the best-painted character of all, is impressive.\
MixedThe GuardianThere is a palpable anxiety to cover every ‘African’ topic; almost as if the writer had a checklist made from the morning's news on Africa … What stops the book collapsing under its own thematic weight is a certain linguistic verve, and the sense that this is a really talented and ambitious author who might at any moment surprise the reader by a plot twist, some technical bravura, or a thematic transcendence that will take the story beyond its gratuitously dark concerns to another, more meaningful level … Bulawayo's keen powers of observation and social commentary, and her refreshing sense of humour, come through best in moments when she seems to have forgotten her checklist and goes unscripted.