RaveFinancial Times (UK)Animal will confirm [Taddeo\'s] status as a pre-eminent channeller of women’s interior lives ... She is among a new generation of authors coming to prominence — novelists such as Raven Leilani, Leïla Slimani, and Ottessa Moshfegh. Theirs are no-fucks-given, visceral, pared-back narratives that unspool the generational trauma that women have had to hold in and endure for centuries ... Come to it fresh, and savour a cleverly constructed psychological thriller that depends on the accretion of casually tossed in details about Joan’s past and hints about the future ... Joan drives across America with her life in boxes, and here Taddeo displays the deep-dive detail at which she excels, her keen journalist’s eye that seeks \'colour\' and can itemise it ... This book is a raging, funny and fierce thriller with a protagonist whose life force, against extraordinary odds — always in the gaze and sometimes the grasp of predatory, abusive men — is a thing of wonder. Taddeo is a folklorist of our performative age. Her fiction employs the same propulsive storytelling we saw in Three Women, itself a feat that owes a lot to the oral tradition.
PositiveThe Financial Times (UK)Mozley is adept at detailing this tricksy duality ... Mozley’s writing often takes on a lyrical, almost fairytale quality ... Hot Stew’s many separate strands and characters are linked in both explicit and less obvious ways. Some of this is very clever and some of it is a bit clunky, even worthy. No matter — the story moves so quickly, and ranges so widely, that there is no time to dwell — either as a reader or in this review ... The novel climaxes in a single violent afternoon that has been prefigured by the rumblings throughout the novel. It’s one ending, but London is never finished. Much later, when Precious travels by bus to a public inquiry into the events of that day, \'she sees London whirling past like a magic lantern\'. It’s a wonderful image, and one that sums up Mozley’s messy, fantastical vision of this beloved city.
RaveFinancial Times (UK)Hazzard’s sentences are clever, dense; they make assumptions about the reader’s knowledge of Italian or classical myth. Her characters speak in full sentences. Sometimes the formality seems positively prewar, yet she was published from the 1960s onwards ... What makes her different from other writers who like to show off their cleverness is that Hazzard is actually focused on the frailty and dignity of the human condition ... Now, finally, her clear-headed brilliance seems to be on a steep upward popularity curve ... Hazzard presents a world in one building; a global gathering that exists, it seems, to swap brown paper files and have awkward meetings. Reading the stories together is a treat — through these recurring characters and their glimpsed lives the reader is immersed in a fully realised human ecosystem ... On and off the page, Hazzard’s is the sparky, considered voice of a world-class observer of humanity.
RaveFinancial Times (UK)The Lying Life of Adults is the most intense writing about the experiences and interior life of a girl on the cusp of adulthood that I have ever read. It is brilliant, but also demands a lot from the reader: namely that we drop everything and immerse ourselves in the dark and brutally self-loathing first-person narrative of Giovanna ... Vittoria is probably the most transgressive, magnificently unsuitable aunt in the fictional canon ... Throughout, Ferrante is creating ideas for the reader to consider — sparks that kickstart our own faulty memories or recall attempts at self-determination or feelings about faith and family ... We ought to end this book reeling but instead it seems hopeful, with Giovanna’s life a work in progress. And it helps that her story is mediated via Ferrante’s formal, austere prose, which acts like a containment field for the extremes of emotion and the violence — latent and realised — that underpin much of the Neapolitan life that she and her English translator Ann Goldstein conjure here.
RaveFinancial Times (UK)There are remarkable things in this book, often revealed by close, slow reading. Such is the attention to detail that the novel becomes meditative in its observations ... Cain—like more established US literary stars such as Jenny Offill and Ottessa Moshfegh—writes in a style I have started to call \'modern flat.\' It has qualities that include, but are not limited to, deceptively simple structures, first person narration, usually by a woman, and short, almost curt sentences. All of which serve to conceal something deeper, and sometimes unsettling, beneath that calm surface ... Indelicacy’s undemanding prose style can likewise easily be a speed read. Perhaps it was always Cain’s intention to draw in busy readers quickly and easily, then suspend us, helpless and happy, in the extraordinary world she has created, unmoored in time or place.
RaveThe Financial TimesCharming is one word for Williams’ prose. It is also life-affirming and written with a turn of phrase that makes the reader want to underline something on every page. I suggest we all buy his books, pushing him into that realm of globally fashionable Irish writers (which he might not care about), but more importantly, sharing with a vast audience his humane and poetic world view ... This is not a book to read for fast-moving developments. It is one to savour, slowly, like the way of life it enshrines. The supporting cast is huge, eccentric, frequently funny ... The dual-time narration means that we are sometimes thrillingly in the moment.
PositiveFinancial Times...enormous but accessible ... Overall, the re-telling—reviving, really—of so many corporate lives acts as a tonic for any reader tired of hearing about the exciting world and devilish dominance of Big Tech. O’Toole takes us back to explore the work and legacies of the behemoths of the manufacturing past, many of them almost forgotten. The primary audience for the book is likely to be business school students and management specialists, although the former group will find a depressingly large number of examples of men with MBAs who were brought into enlightened companies when the original visionary leader had been sidelined or driven out ... These, and more modern company set-ups, including for-profit social enterprises, seem to offer hope for those in search of models of kinder capitalism that can outlast their founders’ vision. But they remain outside the mainstream.
PositiveThe Financial TimesFuller’s skill is in building up the detail and tension so that we want to know what happens, and why—and along the way we realize just how damaged Frances is. No spoilers, but there is a twist—and it isn’t one I saw coming ... Gradually Cara’s troubled history becomes apparent, and truth, fiction and the supernatural seem to merge. Fuller expertly builds suspense through Frances’s eyes—most tellingly through disturbing details of the dilapidated grand house with a macabre edge ... Bitter Orange is a smart creation from a skilled writer: a heady psychological novel that builds its layers carefully to allow gradual revelations and stomach-churning surprises. It is a predictable formula, but no less enjoyable for that, and a perfect summer read.
RaveThe Financial Times\"The book’s cover offers fair warning of the explicit content inside: \'Teenage kids. Ageing Parents. Marriage in Meltdown\' ... The rest is by turns funny, sad — and very explicitly menopausal. While the queasy might find there is too much pain, blood (and forgetfulness) in these pages, there is a raw honesty about this part of Kate’s story, highlighting as it does the debilitating physical and mental toll of the menopause that has so often been hidden or silenced, that it serves only to elevate some of the book’s more contrived plot lines and humour.
Dorthe Nors, Trans. by Misha Hoekstra
PositiveFinancial TimesNors’ writing has witty and insightful depth ... Nors writes important modern women’s fiction. It is an act of 21st century recovery and assertion: she gives back agency and centrality to older women, sidelined in all societies, even Scandinavian ones, where women are valued less than men, and childless, single women least of all.
Audur Ava Ólafsdóttir, Trans. by Brian FitzGibbon
PositiveThe Financial TimesÓlafsdóttir...excels in noticing and describing the travails of everyday lives on the margins of mainstream Icelandic society. We see those details through our narrator’s eyes ... Ólafsdóttir’s writing is at once profoundly Icelandic — focusing the reader on all the particularity of life on that isolated island — and universal ... Skewed is a good word for the rhythm and mood of her writing — her authorial voice is immediate and intimate, yet it feels remote from the Anglophone world.
RaveThe Financial TimesColm Tóibín’s narrative voice is that of an unremarked woman whose remarkable son (Jesus Christ, although he is never named) created momentous events, and broke his mother’s heart. Hers is the backstory, the shadow tale, of Christ’s last days and his death on the cross … Mary’s tale is extraordinary, but the book works so well partly because Tóibín bases it on the universal loss of motherhood – the fact that children grow up and reject their mothers, instead opting for independence and life in the wider world. On this Tóibín overlays the far darker story of this particular mother watching her son take the decision to go to his certain death – and her realisation that there is nothing she can do about it.
PositiveThe Financial TimesIts title, Aftermath: On Marriage and Separation, is a bit of a misnomer. There is, in fact, not much marriage in here... What follows includes a lot of solitude, smoking and near-starvation. Cusk more or less stops eating and serves her two daughters their supper on trays … Beyond the easy knocks, Cusk is asking herself, and the reader, to think about deeper questions, most notably: where is the authority when the authority of men has gone? In Greek myths she finds a brutal, passionate world suited to her new outlook … The (overwhelmingly female) critics of Cusk’s confessional books miss the point: she’s not out to be our friend. She is not seeking approval. We must accept her, if we do, simply as an extraordinary writer of the female experience. She puts into words what is normally consigned to the realm of the non-verbal.
RaveThe Financial TimesWhen The Silkworm opens Strike has himself become something of a celebrity, having solved the mystery of the death of a supermodel in The Cuckoo’s Calling. That book dealt with the darker side of fame: the nature of real and manufactured friendship; the fact that everyone is nosy about the rich and famous. It won’t escape readers’ notice that Rowling has long been extremely rich and famous and in The Silkworm Strike is called on to solve a murder within the London publishing world – another profession allied to fame, with all its attendant sycophancy … The Silkworm is not great literary fiction although it expertly skewers the pretensions of that world. It is, rather, what it sets out to be: a properly addictive whodunnit. And in the unlikely pairing of ungainly Strike and his clever young assistant, Robin Ellacott, Rowling/Galbraith has created an investigative duo with spark and empathy.
PositiveThe Financial TimesThis fictionalised version of this fight offers outsiders a glimpse into the frustration of dealing with officialdom as Ben Jewell, the book’s narrator, fights to secure the best future for 11-year-old Jonah ... Ben and Jonah move in with his father, Georg Jewell, a charismatic, funny and practical man who fled the Nazis in Hungary as a child. The layers of silence — about Georg’s own family, about his marriage to Ben’s mother, and his own health — are explored in moving, bleakly funny detail. Seeing Emma through Ben’s eyes — she leaves him in sole charge of Jonah for months — makes her seem harsh and odd. Why leave her child like that? It’s the underwritten, unsatisfying aspect of the book.
RaveThe Financial TimesBen Lerner’s debut novel is funny, uplifting and moving. This is quite an achievement, given that the plot of this slim volume covers nothing more ambitious than a few months in the the aimless, drugs-and-caffeine fuelled life of a dislikeable young American living in Madrid … Lerner’s genius, though, is to put into words that universal, often-lost period when most young people are commitment-free but weighed down with a fragile, serious sense of the nascent self. Nobody in this book wears their learning lightly, while unfortunate Adam is both pretentious and hopeless at the practical skills of life.
RaveThe Financial Times...a short, sharp American memoir in the Mary Karr tradition of life-chronicling. Which is to say that Levy, like Karr, is a natural writer who is also as unsparing and bleakly hilarious as it’s possible to be about oneself ... The book ends where it begins, in the aftermath of the whirlwind of events that upends this woman’s controlled, self-determined world. I devoured her story in one sitting. It felt, well, greedy. But 'greedy' is how the author characterises herself, so it seemed fine, hopeful even, to read her work in the same way, perhaps absorbing as I went a tiny bit of Levy’s remarkable resilience and appetite for life.
PositiveThe Financial TimesThe usual funny and poignant mishaps ensue, written in the confessional style. Fielding’s narrative diverts from the screen version: notably that feckless Daniel Cleaver, the original 'fuckwit' in Bridget’s life (Hugh Grant reportedly refused to appear in the third film) is, gratifyingly, very much alive and central to the plot of the novel. 'VG.'
PositiveThe Financial TimesThe Gardener and the Carpenter should be required reading for anyone who is, or is thinking of becoming, a parent ... Gopnik’s science-based assertion is a welcome corrective to the prevailing culture of coaching and tutoring children — often at great expense — to avoid failure.