RaveThe Guardian (UK)Fracture is by far the Argentinian writer Andrés Neuman’s most successful experiment ... Neuman writes prose like a poet ... There is quite a lot of stylistic pouncing—the novel proceeds in continual leaps and bounds ... perhaps that which should be said must be said—and Neuman undoubtedly says it beautifully ... important. True.
PositiveThe Times Literary Supplement (UK)As with many of Buckley’s books, The Great Concert of the Night is structured as a series of riffs—or rifts rather—which allow for lava-like eruptions of memory and great salty lakes of observation. Transnational and transhistorical, Buckley’s terrain is a vast territory rather than a particular place or a time ... Bravura passage follows bravura passage, to the point not only of superabundance but of superfluity. As Buckley hauls out yet more personal relics from the narrator’s memory for our perusal, the vast array becomes overwhelming. But perhaps that’s the point ... The odd leaden insight or observation seems unworthy of the brilliance elsewhere on display, but the figure of Imogen—figured and refigured in descriptions of her various screen roles—remains fascinating throughout.
RaveThe GuardianA writer’s second novel, it is often said, truly gives the tone: Hughes has set his standards high ... The book is full of excruciating details ... Part of the thrill is recognising the correspondences between the characters and Homer’s originals ... Even if you can’t recognise the correspondences, the language is enough to keep you enthralled. Hughes is an actor as well as as writer...The novel, as one might expect, is driven strongly by the sound of a rhythmic speaking voice ... Matthew Arnold described Homer as \'eminently noble\', \'eminently rapid\' and \'eminently plain and direct\'. If anything, Hughes’s achievement is to prove the opposite: that Homer remains ignoble, messy and horribly familiar.
PositiveThe GuardianThe memoir is a generous and democratic form, and perhaps the only form generous and democratic enough for someone like Batuman, who is one of those polyglot, firing-on-all-cylinders-at-all-times kind of individuals one doesn\'t often come across in smalltown England, or rural Ireland, or in the highlands of Scotland, or the Welsh valleys ... In some complicated way, The Possessed is a book about the relationship between art and life – towards the end there is a detailed engagement with René Girard\'s theory of the novel and mimetic desire ... There are many times, as here, when Batuman embodies that great New Yorker tradition of intelligent, lightly comic non-fiction, as practised by, say, EB White, or Ludwig Bemelmans, or even the great hangdog himself, James Thurber, with his forever perplexed protagonists ... In the end, all memoirs tend to end up as a defence of something, or someone – usually oneself. Batuman\'s is a defence of reading as a form of living.
RaveThe Guardian (UK)...with Ducks, Newburyport, Ellmann has clearly weighed up the opinions of her critics and the pros and cons of her trademark style, considered her options, and thought: \'Damn the lot of you, I’m going to continue to write exactly the kind of novel I want to write, thank you very much.\' In this case it turns out to be around 1,000 pages of an Ohio mother of four and homemaker worrying, mostly in one long sentence untroubled by full stops ... In her latest novel Ellmann doesn’t just carry on as before: she doubles down, doubles up and absolutely goes for broke ... In many ways, the book reads like a culmination. This is partly because of its extraordinary length and bold rhetorical devices, but also because it brings together elements from all Ellmann’s previous books: her great love of lists; the endless references to popular culture; the roarings and forebodings and glorious meanderings. I could tell you the significance of the ducks of the title, but that would cheat you of one of the great pleasures of the novel, which is just sticking with it and allowing the author to determine the pace and rhythm at which you read. \'This book will either be a success or a failure,\' remarks one character. \'Nobody wants to hear that,\' responds the narrator. Fair enough. Success? Failure? Triumph.
PositiveThe GuardianPendergrast forsakes soothsaying and makes no attempt at philosophy, but he dutifully grinds through the old myths and stories ... It is a book both rich and thick. It\'s almost Turkish ... Yet for all its exotic locations and excursions, for all the press-potted histories of Guatemala and Costa Rica, Pendergrast\'s coffee all ends up in the United States. It is really an American story that he\'s telling ... Ultimately, of course, and at length and of interest, it\'s a book about Starbucks ... What Pendergrast doesn\'t point out is that Starbucks is the apotheosis of modern consumer society and its management of the pleasure principle.
RaveThe Times Literary SupplementNina Stibbe...with this third novel, Reasons To Be Cheerful...provides exactly what its title suggests ... Stibbe establishes herself as England’s greatest living comic novelist. How? It’s difficult to explain, but...what Stibbe does...is just funny ... In years to come there’ll undoubtedly be PhD students writing theses on \'Nina Stibbe and the Politics of 21st century English Humor.\'
RaveThe GuardianEven if Ferlinghetti’s great age were irrelevant – which it is not – it would be pretty much unreviewable because … well, because Ferlinghetti is Ferlinghetti, the founder of City Lights bookshop in San Francisco, publisher and friend of the beats, poet, artist, activist and living legend, and no one in their right mind wants to argue with a living legend ... A final loosening of a word-hoard is exactly what Little Boy is, and who could object to such an exercise of freedom? This isn’t a book: it’s a reckoning ... The most affecting parts of Little Boy are in fact those that most closely resemble a traditional memoir or autobiography, because Ferlinghetti’s life, even simply told, is utterly extraordinary.
MixedThe Spectator (UK)If Janet Malcolm is the thinking woman’s Joan Didion, then Nobody’s Looking at You is her Slouching Towards Bethlehem: a lot less slouching ... The range is impressive, if slightly humourless and bewildering ... two long articles about Tolstoy which show Malcolm off at her formidable, straight-talking best ... Vanity, masochism, arrogance? Who knows the motives of the rich and the famous? Certainly not the rich and the famous—and maybe not even Janet Malcolm, who often seems to come away from her interviews as puzzled by her subjects as they are. Maybe that’s the point. Maybe that’s the appeal ... Her other great skill is focusing on odd and unexpected details and offering them up as vague, conclusive metaphors ... Fearless, curious, endlessly entertaining: would that we were all so stupid and full of ourselves.
PositiveThe GuardianSchott certainly puts on a bravura performance, twirling and twinkling with tremendous energy ... 300 pages of non-stop high jinks ... In Schott’s fabulous re-creation of Wodehouse’s version of an England that never was, old chums mingle with new characters ... As with Wodehouse himself, or like spending a long evening in the company of a scintillating conversationalist, things eventually begin to flag, but discretion on this point, as Bertie would have it, is the better p. of v. Schott has hit the target.
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.