MixedThe Times Literary Supplement (UK)[It] covers similar territory in its exploration of family dysfunction and gay identities on the sectarian, homophobic and often brutal streets of the author’s youth. However, while the fifteen-year-old Mungo’s saintliness provides some interesting narrative opportunities, it also poses serious questions about characterization that the earlier book was not forced to address – existential questions related to good and evil ... Herein lies the problem with this novel. Mungo is indeed a saint, after his fashion. He continually forgives his mother’s transgressions, no matter how callous, and in spite of Hamish’s systematic bullying, he feels nothing but tenderness for his brother ... while by this point many readers will be rooting for some kind of salvation, what is yet more difficult to reconcile, from a moral perspective, is whether or not the vengeful steps Mungo takes offer a just basis for the new life he desires.
RaveThe Times Literary Supplement (UK)John Cheever famously observed that, when reading a page of good prose, \'one can hear the rain\'. This is certainly true of Blank Pages, where the sounds, scents and textures of the characters’ worlds are not merely described but made present for the reader, subtly, effortlessly, on every page ... What we are noticing here, however, is not just the soundtrack of the rainstorm, but also a prevailing atmosphere, a sense of impending danger in both the life of this one man and the wider world ... MacLaverty offers a deeply affecting portrait of how normal grief works, but he also obliges us to consider what happens when the usual apparatus for mourning is absent ... Reading MacLaverty, we inhabit the characters’ lives from the inside out, arriving at an exquisitely intimate sense of common humanity as we share the everyday mysteries they inhabit.
Per Petterson, Tr. Don Bartlett
RaveThe Guardian (UK)... a compelling mix of fable with the day-to-day account of a working-class boy, just about to turn 12, as he visits his maternal grandparents in Jutland ... the real echoland here is Arvid’s imagination; his intuitions and suspicions and, in the end, his inability to come to terms with a grief that is left hanging, unspoken and unmediated, while the family struggle, individually rather than collectively, to come to terms with their history ... even the most seemingly incidental characters are vividly painted ... it is hard to think of a novel that so precisely and vividly conveys the pain and disorientation of puberty. As the book progresses, one’s apprehension becomes more and more acute, until it is close to unbearable. Even then, it is no preparation for what comes on the very last page, a dramatic turn of events that, even while it seems to have been inevitable all along, still hits the reader with all the force of a hammer blow.
Ismail Kadare, trans. by John Hodgson
RaveThe Guardian (UK)... Ismail Kadare’s autobiographical novel can be read as an elegant, slightly bittersweet coming-of-age memoir, touched with nostalgia for a homeplace that is now long lost ... The Doll is full of compelling details of life in a changing Albania, as the citizenry come to terms with various hues of communist rule under Soviet-backed Enver Hoxha. One of the funniest accounts is of the day, in 1953, when condoms arrive for the first time in the pharmacy ... The Doll is rich with such touches, alongside many of Kadare’s familiar concerns – with the folkloric roots of modern life, say, or the absurdity of Albanian politics. However, the poignant observation, bitter irony and misspoken fear running through the narrator’s central relationship with his mother, a woman secretly terrified of being disowned as unworthy the moment her son achieves the fame he so desires, are what dominate this fascinating study of a difficult love.
RaveThe Guardian (UK)Reading Sarah Perry\'s extraordinary debut novel, it is hard not to reach for comparisons, if only in a bemused attempt to work out just why this book is so very good. On the surface, it seems straightforward ... I could not put this book down ... what Perry does here is to render the suspense metaphysical, one might even say environmental: we care about her characters, as we care about the characters in a novel by Thomas Hardy, say, but it is also the case that her dramatis personae, like Hardy\'s, are transcended by the drama that unfolds in the land, in the air and, most of all, in the water that surrounds them ... By the close...the careful reader emerges with a sense of having encountered a unique new writing talent, already working at a level of subtlety and restraint that many more seasoned novelists lack ... What makes this novel truly remarkable is its unique vision, its skilful and sophisticated characterisations, and the creation, without unseemly effects, of an atmosphere that will haunt readers long after the final page.
PositiveThe GuardianFrom the very first page of Tash Aw’s new novel, the ghost of Albert Camus’s The Outsider is an almost palpable presence. The detached tone of Aw’s first-person narrator, Ah Hock; the fleeting impressions of societal contradiction and injustice that govern his life; the catalytic presence of a supposed friend and petty criminal, Keong; and, most of all, the fact that Ah Hock seems recently to have committed a random murder make him a close cousin to Camus’s feckless, emotionally stunted Meursault ... This, however, is where the similarities end. For while Meursault’s homicidal impulse is a thing of the moment, the symptom of an undefined anomie, We, the Survivors provides an entire if barely visible history for Ah Hock. It is a narrative of exile, marginalisation and corporate greed, of abuses of the land and those who scrape a living from it, all of which have helped to form contemporary Malaysia ... As the novel moves through the lower levels of Malaysian society in the footsteps of two young men who are essentially afraid of everyone they encounter, we come to see the deeper, visceral impulses that underlie racism, casual animosity and violence in general. By the time we reach the climactic scene...Aw’s gripping and strangely moving book has brought us, if not to an understanding, then at least towards some appreciation of the social complexity and steady flow of injustices that have led to this absurd yet terrifying moment.
PositiveThe SpectatorWithout a doubt, Ellroy aficionados will love This Storm. Others may baulk at its length and complexity, or at its headlong momentum ... The characters we meet in This Storm may not be relatable, but, for those of us still following the news, they are all too often eerily familiar and their methods need to be understood. What Ellroy shows us, time and time again, is not only the ugliness of corruption but also the shame that infects an entire society when the guilty are permitted to go about their business.
PositiveThe Spectator...while the new story collection The Largesse of the Sea Maiden continues in similar vein, it reveals other gifts that even Johnson’s fans overlooked during his lifetime ... More usual is a dizzying mix of humour and near tragedy that leaves us unsure whether to laugh or weep, as Johnson leads us off on one of his side trips to the hospital or funeral parlour ... How could we not miss him?
RaveThe Guardian...establish[es] Ryan beyond dispute as one of the finest writers working in Ireland today ... It would be a bending of the classical definition to say that these figures are tragic – but in a way they are. As the book approaches its difficult conclusion, the possibility of healing, of atonement, is at least suggested by the narrator’s last, extraordinary gesture. Without disclosing the details of this final scene, it does not seem extravagant to claim it is worthy of Greek drama. That the tragedies of our own age happen in suburban semis, or on Travellers’ sites, does not make them any less cathartic – and Ryan’s choice of narrator, a character both deeply flawed and painfully guilty, shows him working in the great tradition of tragic fiction, his lonely adulteress coming to grief in the same shadowy spaces as Emma Bovary or Anna Karenina.
RaveThe Guardian… a work of extraordinary narrative power and contrasts, in which destruction seems inevitable and enjoyment of victory's fleeting pleasures bittersweet at best … the power of this remarkable and beautifully wrought novel is that we remember, in its careful dissection of imperial power, our innate potential for moral courage and companionship.