MixedThe Irish Times (IRE)I can’t necessarily recommend [Storey\'s] memoir, which he hesitated to publish during his profoundly troubled life. But I will certainly never forget it ... This certainly isn’t a misery memoir, but it is a memoir of misery. Storey’s light touch with characterisation and occasional, spectacular eloquence make it a mellifluous, if nothing like a pleasant, read. It is also a tale he has told himself many times. A Stinging Delight is strong on stinging, a little weaker on delight. Its author lived like a man tied naked in a ditch of nettles while someone shovelled dirt over his face, his life seeming at times to be little more than a half-century-long waterboarding.
Leila Slimani tr. Sam Taylor
RaveThe Times (UK)The Country of Others is a very different beast [than Slimani\'s previous books], a broader and better book than either of its predecessors ... As in the earlier novels [the characters] twist between need and repulsion, lust and hatred. What’s new about this book is the sense of a world beyond those passions, one that’s been realized with sympathy and skill ... This novel is maybe a bit short on humour. But it does impress with the depth of its moral imagination. It’s what you might, if you were feeling provocative, call a novel for adults: one that doesn’t grind axes, or preach, or tally up right and wrong, but simply explains that to know all isn’t necessarily to forgive all ... The Country of Others is a morally difficult, slow-burn story about lives being suffocated by circumstance, one that’s carried off with greater sympathy and realism than anything Slimani has done before.
PanThe Times (UK)In a novel where we can barely shake hands without quietly contemplating the dynamics of structural power, a man with gelled hair might as well have ridden into town wearing a black hat and two bandoleers ... The dark-suited war criminals provide the book’s most compelling passages, exuding a terrible charisma ... The problem is the whole novel, told in limpid, deliberately monosyllabic prose, seems to be seen through a glass wall, the narrator floating on at Covid-secure distance from everything ... The evacuated personalities on show, to be sure, exemplify the unfathomable separateness of other human beings. If the book is about a woman’s journey into the paradoxes of intimacy, which she craves and fears, then, I guess, it makes sense that her account of the world should contain, or at least start from, a position of rejecting it. But what surprise can the author offer, when she makes no attempt to know the characters in the first place? How can you unearth things if you didn’t put down any earth to begin with? The story and its characters feel like a pretext for the elegant management of theme ... It’s not that I don’t agree with Kitamura about power, unknowability, the barbarism of men. It’s that, reading her book, I don’t feel it, don’t hear it or see it. The novel puts the reader into the position of its narrator, looking in through Perspex at a muffled world.
RaveThe Times (UK)The Netanyahus is Cohen’s sixth novel, his most conventional and his best to date. It is a tour de force: compact, laugh-out-loud funny, the best new novel I’ve read this year ... Among its other merits, then, The Netanyahus can claim the distinction of being probably the funniest novel ever written about contending historiographies ... Cohen writes with humour and wit...but comedy is a way of seeing things, as well as describing them ... Cohen’s lesson, in this determinedly comic novel, is that history happens as farce and tragedy simultaneously; the side you see depends, in part, on where you happen to be standing.
Yan Lianke tr. Carlos Rojas
PositiveThe Times (UK)... a difficult but fascinating work, a novel in which the reader is constantly urged to measure the discrepancy between what’s being said and what’s happening ... The fretful reader is left to shadowbox with their own preconceptions ... Jonathan Swift said satire is a mirror in which we see everyone’s features but our own. Some will be eager to see the faces of their ideological foes in the brainwashed features of the star-crossed revolutionaries — their pitiless self-advancement and disregard for those who stand in their way. It’s easy to look at insanity and see everyone else. Yan’s challenge, to his samizdat readers in China and those beyond, is to look in the murky glass of ambition and self-deception and find the face that resembles their own.
PositiveThe Irish Times (IRE)... a conscious attempt to restore that missing page ... [a] sometimes dizzying cast of characters ... Batalion writes history that seeks to emphasise the agency and resistance of the human spirit in the face of oppression ... Batalion’s book is passionately researched and written with the quick-cutting thrust of an action film. (Steven Spielberg is developing it for the screen). If it has a flaw, it’s that at times her characters feel too much like one woman. They have a saintly, faceless quality, and though I read this book in awe of their heroism, I finished it having never quite met their eyes.