PositiveThe Guardian (UK)While Hornby skewers this particular milieu – his home territory – with horrible accuracy, and is truly funny, creating an impressive portrait of the internal life of a woman in her 40s, his attempt to inhabit the point of view of a black man in his 20s sits uneasily. Amid all the unwinnable arguments about who is allowed to write about whom, or from whose viewpoint, this is a brave, well meant if sometimes jarring attempt. The youth-speak alone, the \'pengs\' and \'lols\', the DJ friend called £Man and girl called Jaz in her spangly top and face glitter seem at best dated, even for 2016 ... But the novel gallops straight into something that is immensely readable, sharp-eyed and at times hilarious ... Hornby pulls off that surprisingly difficult feat: creating genuinely likable protagonists. We are rooting for them throughout, longing for their age-gap, class-gap, interracial relationship to work despite obstacles ... Long discussions about Brexit, episodes of casual and overt racism, and constant ruminations about race and background fail to obscure the fact that this is, at heart, a light and enjoyable relationship novel that is thin on plot but entertaining in classic Hornby fashion ... The simple fact of their love is convincing; what is less effectively conveyed is just how this relationship works, neither the glue nor the chemistry truly apparent ... As ever, the true delight of a Hornby novel lies in his extraordinarily acute social observation, and in the sheer brilliance of exchanges that sing, zing and capture every nuance of real speech. The book seems almost TV-ready, as page after page of breathtakingly recognisable dialogue is laid out like a screenplay, and even texts seem lifted straight off the phone. The school quiz night with its Mexican buffet and entitled liberals treating Joseph like \'an unexploded bomb\' is a masterpiece of farce ... The Brexit vote comes and goes, the arguments from both sides rehashed, but this is territory already so well covered by Jonathan Coe and others, and so well known by the rest of us, that it feels redundant. Just Like You could stand alone as the ladlit-meets-mumlit social satire that it is, its vicious wit paradoxically interwoven with tenderness and empathy. The Observer called Hornby \'the poet of the everyday\', and this is exactly what he is. Little escapes his eye. Certain pleased-with-themselves tribes – indeed the metropolitan elite flushed out by Brexit – have rarely been so successfully pinned to a page and left to squirm.
RaveThe Guardian (UK)Such an undertaking is an enormous challenge, but O’Farrell is passionately steeped in the period ... The utter fluency with which O’Farrell glides across years and decades, never lingering in one timeframe for long yet never confusing the reader, has always been one of her most remarkable achievements as a writer ... Once the illness leaps from Judith to Hamnet in August 1596, the novel becomes a breathtakingly moving study of grief ... O’Farrell’s portrait of maternal and sibling bereavement is so accurately expressed it’s almost too painful to read. Hamnet is, above all, a profound study of loss ... At her best, O’Farrell is simply outstanding. Within pages, she can inhabit the mind of an owl, of a great playwright, of a dying boy, of those watching him. It seems she can pretty much do anything on the page that she puts her mind to. Immersive, at times shockingly intimate, and triumphantly brought to fruition, this is a work that ought to win prizes.
MixedThe Guardian (UK)Veronica, Gaitskill\'s first novel in a decade and a half, returns to Two Girls territory by focusing on an unlikely friendship between two apparently contrasting women, but it has nothing of its predecessor\'s tautness and control, its ability to spin a strange but compelling tale. It also seems trapped in the decade which it describes, both intentionally and unconsciously ... Issues of loyalty, loneliness and a sense of the simultaneous beauty and cruelty of contemporary life forge some sort of framework for an impressionistic novel that frequently reads as though it\'s been cut and pasted too many times ... However, this is a humane novel: a study of brutal loneliness with moments of tenderness. It is also a book that loses the plot. Veronica is stuck in an era. While representing the nihilism of the glittering period it portrays, it echoes that emptiness itself.
RaveThe GuardianAs its title and first pages suggest, its surface plot concerns a tabloid-pleasing sizzler of a scandal ... Neither player tells the story in their own words, so instead of the anticipated wallow in dodgy Nabokovian delights, we're given a third party's somewhat matter-of-fact account of the charmless youth's entanglement with the unlikely school sexpot ... It's a quiet little read – yet horribly addictive. Underlying breathtakingly acute observations, and much fine writing, there's a lightness of sentiment that sporadically propels the novel into the realms of commercial pap.
MixedThe GuardianEdwards specialises in a tasteful brand of commercial writing that starts with a humdinger of a premise: in this case a young doctor's decision to spare his wife by spiriting away a disabled twin shortly after birth. A predicament so deliciously high on schadenfreude injects family drama with a touch of the misery memoir … This is an unlikely scenario, burdened with too many improbables and underpinned by a structure of convenient psychological justifications. But there's no denying Edwards's ability to spin a tale, and The Memory Keeper's Daughter is gripping from its start … With such a long progression of parallel lives, we need the pay-off to be dramatic, but the expected explosion turns out to be more of a happy fizzle. This is a highly accomplished, well-written novel that lacks soul. It's a page-turner on Valium.
PositiveThe Guardian\"The Enigma Variations’ storyline is more blurred [than Call Me By Your Name\'s] ... As ever, Aciman’s evocation of weather, emotional subtlety and time passing is wonderful. The narrative moves seamlessly into earlier years: the past is the present, the present the past. This Proustian meander captures truths about the contradictory drives of romantic love, but the pace can be excruciatingly slow, and the lack of any real knowledge of who or what Paul is creates a constant sensation of something missing ... The absence of a conventional sense of story or structure reflects the musical form that Aciman is invoking, making this a clever experiment but also a frustrating one. For all its author’s indisputable talents, Enigma Variations creates, deliberately or otherwise, a sense of unfinished business.\