PositiveThe Observer (UK)Based upon what we know so far of these ambivalent relatives who are harbouring some unresolved resentment toward each other, it requires a lot of blind faith and gullibility to believe that these 25+-year-olds (with things to lose such as kids and jobs and partners) would, without much questioning or convincing, be prepared to hide a body in a \'murder\' that very much looks like an accident ... There’s so much fretting and melodramatic buildup that when everything is miraculously wrapped up with a single, finger-wagging chat, you feel cheated ... Where Carty-Williams reigns is in writing humorous speech. The way she uses quick-witted dialogue to highlight strained relationships makes it easy to imagine People Person on screen ... Her portrait of Cyril’s jovial yet crumbling facade is written with such clarity it feels almost biographical ... I wish Carty-Williams had realised the Penningtons needed few theatrics to reveal their dysfunction and focused on creating more organic moments such as this, rather than setting her characters up with all of these banana skins and trap doors that made them read like a Scooby-Doo ensemble ... Still, although the plot devices sometimes feel too clunky or too convenient, People Person has much of the same coming-of-age themes that fans of Queenie will be familiar with, from navigating through bad relationships to finding yourself amid chaos.
RaveThe Observer (UK)There’s something about Vuong’s writing that demands all of your lungs. The succinct line arrangement and absence of full stops in poems such as \'Dear Rose\' force you to breathe heavy ... Being led by urge and compulsion feels central to the emotional landscape of Time Is a Mother, sometimes to the point of recklessness. The painterly opener, \'The Bull\', sets the tone for this sense of wild abandon ... Underneath the macabre scenes is an innocent curiosity and thirst for truth and beauty. These ghost poems are about the cavernous corners of loss, grief, abandonment, trauma and war, but that doesn’t result in nihilism or apathy for life; in fact, Vuong approaches death like an entrance rather than an ending.
PositiveThe Observer (UK)This kind of ad-speak for equality pops up often in this book ... If the politics in Manifesto sometimes feel confusing, many readers will be grateful for a guided tour into the mind of a literary pioneer.
PositiveThe Observer (UK)Palmares is busy with visitors; a painter, a lexicographer, a journalist, witches, medicine women, free men, disfigured women. At times, the conveyor belt of new characters is disorienting, while the dialogue can be repetitive ... But it’s a small price to pay for a book that’s full of imagination and visionary thinking. After a two-decade absence, Jones is back with a formidable novel steeped in history, magical realism, trauma and triumph.
Honoree Fanonne Jeffers
RaveThe Guardian (UK)By continually looking back, Jeffers is doing delicate needlework, stitching together the interior lives of African Americans to illustrate how they survived historical moments ... Sexual abuse is a central theme, though never treated sensationally. It helps to form a larger landscape of misogynoir that stretches from Pinchard’s fetish for prepubescent Black girls, who he believes \'seduce\' him with their beauty, to the policing of promiscuity that Ailey observes in her college years via a list of the most sexually active girls on campus ... Some of Jeffers’s strongest writing comes when Ailey abandons her family’s dream that she will become a doctor like her father, and decides to pursue a PhD researching Chicasetta. Here we see the pain that comes with being a Black historian personally connected to archival information that can make you weep and rage. This book is mammoth in size and scope and, though at times it overspills with a surplus of details, is exceptional in the way it engages so deeply and emphatically with history.
RaveThe Guardian (UK)The story grows more and more disorientating as fiction and reality intertwine. But any confusion over time and place, and who wrote the book within the book, is alleviated by the fact that each character is their own universe ... Laymon writes with humour and clarity about what it means to come of age, to be black in the south, to survive a natural disaster, to become an online celebrity, to love for ever. The time travel device isn’t there to drive the plot, but to play with conceptuality, resulting in a triumphant piece of metafiction.