RaveNew York Times Book ReviewDazzling ... It’s a good example of why Means is considered a modern master of the art ... It’s hard to imagine a more apt expression of the human need to tell stories.
Katherine J Chen
PositiveNew York Times Book Review... affecting and adventurous ... Chen takes a lively stab, imagining the illiterate teenager as an abused child who uses her anger (and a remarkable tolerance for pain) to become an avenging warrior ... Chen’s solution is elegant and timely. Her Joan is just plain tougher than all those knights and noblemen, a born fighter who, as a child, recreates Agincourt with rocks, gets a bull’s-eye with her very first attempt at a longbow and is a preternatural genius at military planning ... Chen creates a rich, visceral world ... This is not your grandmother’s St. Joan. The usual tale of visions and visitations is portrayed here as merely a feature of the time ... by trading religious romanticism for the romanticism of war (especially as depicted by popular fiction), something profound gets lost ... The Joan of history is fascinating because she is enigmatic. To replace her inexplicable nature with a revenge plot is reductive. And to make Joan less mystic makes her less interesting ... The closest Chen’s Joan gets to reverie is the epilogue, when — captured, caged and headed for certain death — she seems more Mel Gibson than Ingrid Bergman ... It may not be the most nuanced portrayal, but if every generation gets the Joan it deserves, ours could do worse than an ass-kicking, avenging angel fighting simply for the right to fight.
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewThat question hangs over Charles Baxter’s tense, wry and ultimately touching new novel, The Sun Collective, which vividly recreates the oscillating sense of dread familiar to anyone who hasn’t spent the last four years in a coma, or in Canada ... There is plenty of artful subtext in The Sun Collective, and a burning house or two. But, as with his sumptuous 2000 novel The Feast of Love (a finalist for the National Book Award), Baxter’s true gift is in describing the tender complexities of a relationship. Here, it’s the wistful, at times contentious, \'post-love”\'of Harold and Alma, whose real problem might not be the times, but time, and their own senescence and mortality ... This is one of the dangers of writing fiction that aims to capture the current moment. The current moment is a slippery bugger, not inclined to wait for publishing schedules. After a summer of actual riots, of racial and social unrest over the very real and nonfuzzy, heart-rending issue of police violence against Black Americans, the simmering rebellion of the Sun Collective feels like a halfhearted thought experiment ... the novel continually builds poignancy by revealing that what Harold and Alma really long for is themselves at that age, when they had the passion of those young people cavorting across the park.
PositiveThe New York Times Book Review...debut novelist Adelle Waldman crawls convincingly around inside the head of one Nathaniel (Nate) Piven ... A journalist by training, Waldman may not be breaking news here, but she does show herself to be a promising novelist and a savvy observer of human nature ... It’s to Waldman’s credit then that she uses this straw-man setup to go deeper and pose an interesting question: Is it fair to expect better from an intelligent, evolved man? ... As Nate and Hannah grow closer, Waldman is terrific at describing the halting miscommunications of a relationship. Nate’s self-destructive moodiness and reverse-engineered justifications are especially well drawn ... But Brooklyn feels a bit perfunctory, maybe a little stale (everyone apparently knows everyone in Brooklyn). A fuzzy sameness blurs the descriptions ... Maybe it’s just hard to imagine — being one of the 13 American writers who don’t live in New York — but really: attractive writers? When did they start making those?
PositivePublishers WeeklyIt is—deep breath now—a murder-mystery speculative-history Jewish-identity noir chess thriller, so perhaps it\'s no surprise that, in the back half of the book, the moving parts become unwieldy; Chabon is juggling narrative chainsaws here ... Eventually, however, Chabon\'s homage to noir feels heavy-handed, with too many scenes of snappy tough-guy banter and too much of the kind of elaborate thriller plotting that requires long explanations and offscreen conspiracies ... It\'s a solid performance that would have been even better with a little more Yiddish and a little less police.
PositiveThe Washington PostSkippy Dies is an epic crafted around, of all things, a pack of 14-year-old boys. It's the Moby-Dick of Irish prep schools … The mixture of tones is the book's true triumph, oscillating the banal with the sublime, the silly with the terrifying, the sweet with the tragic. In short, it's like childhood. In shorter, like life. The book's refrain — that we never really outgrow being lovesick, awkward, bullying children — isn't exactly breaking news, but it's never been truer. As one teacher says in the staff room, ‘The twenty-first century is the age of the kidult’ … Skippy Dies rips along for such a big book, the tension building as we work back up to the boy's death.