PositiveWashington Independent Review of BooksAct of Oblivion unfolds in a manner that would satisfy the 17th-century Puritans who populate the story: slowly, conservatively, and in consultation with scripture ... That’s not a bad thing, though neither is it terribly riveting. Instead, the pleasures of this intelligently crafted novel — the author’s 15th — lie in how deftly Harris conjures a long-ago period likely unfamiliar to the non-royalists among us ... Harris is in no hurry here. He’s willing to let Act of Oblivion unspool slowly, trusting readers will stick with Whalley and Goffe through their protracted, prayerful exile in the future United States. That Nayler’s endless pursuit is far less breakneck than the opening image suggests is a reminder never to judge a book by its cover.
RaveWashington Independent Review of BooksThe author gives his readers what they’ve come to expect: insight, intelligence, beautiful language, close observation, and a subtle undercurrent of wit ... Reflections are not occasional; Lessons is rife with them.
MixedThe Washington Independent Review of Books... this short, conversational book feels like a well-intentioned lecture from Dad to stand up straight, tuck in your shirt, and get a job for Chrissake...By the end, I felt nothing but despair.that’s why the book is so distressing. It isn’t that Nichols, via his good humor and \'moral hectoring,\' doesn’t make a persuasive case for the importance of re-embracing our better angels. It’s that our better angels have already decided they’d rather just watch Netflix and chill. And then subtweet us ... the handful of remedies Nichols offers — and kudos to him for trying — feels out of reach, too.
MixedThe Washington Independent Review of BooksWhat it’s lacking, alas, is drama ... This sounds absurd given the months being covered; there was no end to the real-life terror and upheaval experienced by millions during that time. But the gift of retrospect — and the knowledge of how certain events ultimately played out — can undermine a narrative’s urgency, and that’s what too often happens here ... the author, if he’s intent on mirroring his usual style, must try to generate interest where otherwise there is none, even if it means flooding the zone with minutiae. ... it’s the reader’s decision whether to hang in there for all 500-plus pages. If you do, you won’t be gripped by a pulse-pounding story, but you will earn smaller rewards: glimpses of daily life at 10 Downing Street and Buckingham Palace; reminders of Churchill’s penchant for bathtub work sessions and gaudy dressing gowns; notes from Joseph Goebbels lamenting his own fatigue ... a worthwhile read, if not a riveting one. For students of Churchill and the Blitz, the sheer number of snippets from journals, memos, official documents, and private letters will seem impressively exhaustive. For more casual readers, though, it may just feel exhausting.
Rosa Liksom, Trans. by Lola Rogers
PositiveThe Washington Independent Review of BooksIt’s in her descriptions of these suffocating places that Liksom best paints the torpor and despair of a nation ... Liksom’s great achievement is that the portrait she paints is difficult for the reader to leave behind. Although the plot, such as it is, is slow (like the train), the resilient characters move it forward — none more so than the main character, the Soviet Union.