RaveThe Standard (UK)Every so often a voice emerges from the archive so vivid that it seems impossible that it should ever have been forgotten ... Banine’s sensual writing and remarkable ability to conjure the emotions of lost childhood recall Colette, but the comic grotesquerie of her accounts of her grandmother’s gossips doing their laundry in a frog-infested pool are all her own. Original, too, is her authorial voice, dashingly translated by Anne Thompson-Ahmadova, its wit combining with tenderness and self-knowledge.
PositiveEvening Standard (UK)Elena Ferrante\'s novels...are fearless, often brutal, explorations of the aspects of women’s nature that nurture teaches us to suppress ... If there is a certain heavy-handedness in the symbolism of a talismanic bracelet that passes between the characters, bringing trouble to the owner of whichever wrist it encircles, Ferrante’s narrative, in Ann Goldstein’s exemplary translation, conjures with pungent eloquence the confusion, excitement and danger of the journey towards adulthood—while an ambiguous conclusion suggests that we have not have heard the last of Giovanna’s story.
Greta Thunberg, Malena Ernman, Svante Thunberg
PanThe Evening Standard (UK)While Greta’s international fame will undoubtedly secure a wide audience for the book, it is hard to see what it offers its readers. Those avid for personal gossip about the Thunberg/Ernman family will find little to satisfy their curiosity ... Critics sceptical that Greta’s initiative was entirely her own may find their doubt fuelled by Malena’s eloquent accounts of her own climate activism, while those convinced by climate change science may be dismayed by the book’s eccentricity. Malena’s argument that feminism, mental health and climate activism are interconnected is persuasive but her insistent iterations are strikingly less potent than Greta’s restrained passion. And although Greta and Beata presumably consented to the dramatic descriptions of their mental health problems, these nevertheless feel extremely intrusive ... the prose is idiosyncratic, single-sentence paragraphs abound — and when not confounding the reader with dire statistics, Malena is the mistress of the untelling detail ... Only when Malena is discussing herself does the narrative switch from monochrome to glorious technicolour ... a straightforward memoir might have been a wiser choice of project than this uneasy account of painful family dynamics, awkwardly (and, it is hard not to feel, somewhat expediently) hitched to the environmental issues of which Greta has become a global symbol.
RaveThe Telegraph (UK)...this is as close as we are likely to come to a classical autobiography, arranged in roughly chronological order and exhilaratingly punctuated with meditations on the life scientific, artistic, mechanical, pharmaceutical and erotic ... He is both forthcoming and not about his family ... On the Move is a painful, comic and stoically unself-pitying account of a life haunted by difficulties with \'the three Bs: bonding, belonging and believing\'. In retrospect, it appears as a life whose innumerable moments of apparent disaster – failed research, bungled love affairs, sackings from jobs, manuscripts lost or destroyed, injury and, latterly, mortal illness – have proved to be part of a lengthy and intensely humane creative process.
RaveThe Telegraph (UK)Batuman’s book is one of those fluid, ambiguous, trans-genre works that puzzled bookshop assistants shelve under memoir. Part personal recollection, part travel writing, part literary criticism, it has the remarkable quality of being so dazzlingly good in its unique genre that you wonder whether its author will ever produce anything quite as spectacular ever again ... Whether she took to the study of Russian literature because of a natural inclination to tragic-comedy, or whether her life obligingly began to mirror art is never quite clear, but the combination is both violently original and wholly entrancing ... To apprehend these things, and to explore them – as Batuman does in this preposterously engaging volume – with a mixture of high erudition and a fine sense of the ridiculous, is probably the best any writer can hope to do.
PositiveThe Evening Standard (UK)Cumming’s parents were artists. Cumming herself writes on art, and her narrative turns to paintings to illustrate its crises ... After the silence is broken, the fragments pieced together, a void remains at the heart of this exquisitely wrought story of maternal and filial love and loss. It is in images — two photographs taken by George, for much of the narrative a domineering and repressive figure — that Cumming at last finds the missing piece: a redemptive moment of grace that unites the child and her fractured family.
RaveThe TelegraphOne of the glories of the essay form is that its elegant formality of structure is allied to an exhilarating flexibility of content. You can write a rigorously argued essay about absolutely anything. And that is what Judt does, following his mind wherever it takes him: the food of his English-Jewish childhood, the glories of the suburban Green Line bus routes, his outstanding German teacher, the social and political significance of the Cambridge bedder (as the college servants are known), his thoughts on education, on cars, on learning Czech in middle age, on captive minds, on sexual politics, on identity ... You would expect a memoir written in such circumstances to have an elegiac quality, but here there is no dying fall. The curiosity, intellectual fearlessness, relish for comic detail and crystalline prose are the marks of a man possessed not by death, but by life.
Olga Tokarczuk, Trans. by Antonia Lloyd-Jones
RaveNew StatesmanTranslated with virtuosic precision and wit by Antonia Lloyd-Jones, Tokarczuk’s prescient, provocative and furiously comic fiction seethes with a Blakean conviction of the cleansing power of rage: the vengeance of the weak when justice is denied ... [an] elegantly subversive novel.
Marcel Proust, Trans. by Lydia Davis
PositiveNew StatesmanUnpublished until now, only Proust’s side of the correspondence survives; but these 23 letters, written between 1908 and 1916, form a haunting portrait of a friendship both evanescent and intense between two people who lived within earshot of one another, separated only by a few inches of plaster and floorboard, but who scarcely ever met ... Arranged in speculative chronological order by the editors, the letters are occasionally businesslike... In the epistolary spaces unoccupied by pained remonstrations about the din, a complicity developed –– a piquant combination of physical remoteness and emotional intensity.