PositiveThe GuardianPatient X is told in Peace’s trademark fragmented, incantatory style, as distinctive in its way as, say, full-blown Henry James, using repetition, hyperbole and italicised interior monologue to create swirling hallucinatory effects ... Peace goes from the very beginning – imagining Akutagawa in his mother’s womb, his father with \'his mouth to your mother’s vagina\', calling out, \'Can you hear me in there? Do you want to be born … ?\' – to the very end, portraying Akutagawa’s death by suicide aged just 35, as observed by others ... With Patient X, one begins to see that Peace’s achievement is not merely as an English prose stylist, or as someone who merges genres, or indeed even as a political writer challenging what appears to be the natural order, but as a transnational figure challenging all categories of containment.
Ismail Kadare, Trans. by John Hodgson
RaveThe Guardian\"A Girl in Exile is late, great Kadare ... The novel is translated directly from the Albanian by John Hodgson, who has translated a number of Kadare’s books, and the prose is pleasingly odd, the locutions and idioms strained and startling. In English, Kadare sounds ponderous and precise, like someone continually reaching – and overreaching – for the right words ... A Girl in Exile is a book about learning to live with the dead, and with death, with shadows and with loss. It’s about ghosts – about spectres haunting people, places, states and psyches ... Kadare is a double man, writing about divided selves.\
MixedThe Guardian...till in his 30s, the brilliant American novelist Joshua Cohen has already published several novels, books of short stories and a masterpiece, Witz (2010), which is basically two-thirds David Foster Wallace to one third Philip Roth, but somehow adds up to considerably more than the sum of its parts. Moving Kings, his latest novel, combines the same ingredients, but perhaps adds up to rather less ... It’s all rather subtle and intelligent and compelling – and quite brilliantly composed, every page wriggling with little riffs and sallies – until Cohen introduces another character, Avery, a black Vietnam vet and a former Lincoln Tunnel toll collector, who has converted first to Islam and then to drugs. The novel at this point grinds into another gear, becoming ever more strained in its ambition to portray contemporary America.
PositiveThe GuardianWith fury, rage and spite, it seems. Theroux’s new novel Mother Land has as an epigraph the famous lines from WB Yeats’s 'Remorse for Intemperate Speech': 'Great hatred, little room, / Maimed us at the start. / I carry from my mother’s womb / A fanatic heart' – which pretty much sums up the tone of the book ...the object of Theroux’s articulate rage is the narrator’s ancient mother – referred to throughout simply as Mother – and his many siblings, whom he carefully describes with utter contempt, one by one...will quickly find correspondences between Theroux’s life and work and the life and work of Justus ... There are dozens of insights and aperçus throughout the book not only about the mysteries and challenges of family life but also about the writing life.
RaveThe GuardianGrossman no longer writes what we traditionally think of as novels: he has transcended genre; or rather, he has descended deep into the vaults beneath ... A Horse Walks into a Bar – again translated by Jessica Cohen, who has long proved herself capable of keeping up with Grossman’s twists and turns of style – is more like a parable, about the loss of parents and the losses of a nation. As with all good parables, it requires the reader to do some work in order to understand its meaning ... Grossman does make a few concessions to the reader, who might – understandably – come looking for humour in a book about a comic...But Grossman’s true interests lie elsewhere: A Horse Walks into a Bar is not a book about standup comedy. It is a book about art, and the relationship of suffering to art ... This isn’t just a book about Israel: it’s about people and societies horribly malfunctioning. Sometimes we can only apprehend these truths through story – and Grossman, like Dovaleh, has become a master of the truth-telling tale. 'What is he selling them?' wonders the judge. 'What is he selling himself?' These are important questions at this moment in history, a time of trickery and lies. This is a novel for our new Age of Offence – offence easily taken and endlessly performed.
RaveThe Guardian...there is only one possible word to describe Robert Harris’s new novel, and it is this: unputdownable ... The information isn’t always easy to digest – for the reader or for the writer. As always with Harris, there is a lot of backstory and exposition ... in Conclave the sequence is very simple and pleasing indeed: the pope dies, the cardinals gather, there is the first ballot, there is the second ballot, there is the third ballot, and so on, each stage being accompanied by another twist, some new mystery or complication.