PositiveThe Arts FuseDaniel Kehlmann’s narrative gift is so prodigious as to be almost aggravating ... this is one of the most German novels I’ve read in a long time! Tyll, like its eponymous hero, meanders, dwells on detail; it can be repetitious in the incantatory way of tales told aloud, and is in no rush to orient the reader in place and time. But after being dropped into this richly atmospheric world without a compass, in the company of quirkily amusing or repellent yet amusing characters, one surrenders to a pacing out of step with most present-day fiction ... Apart from offering a story well told, Tyll delves into three or four fascinating aspects of those 30 years ... won’t be everyone’s beer. Those hoping for a more suspenseful, less elliptical presentation may wish to wait and check out the version Netflix eventually concocts. But that series, however well done, won’t be this book, and the pleasures of this novel, not least it’s crisp, adroit language, impeccably brought to English by translator Ross Benjamin, can and should be enjoyed — right now.
MixedThe Los Angeles TimesAfter some lyrical but unconvincing early scenes, the first half of the novel builds to page-turning tension. Fiction based on the lives of the famous has a special kind of suspense: One recalls more or less what has to happen (a Stalinist agent will hack the revolutionary's skull with an ice ax) but not the exact timing, or the details (how the killer weaseled his way past walls and guards into the Riveras' trust), or the motivations, the hopes and fears, the devastation of those touched by the murder. That is the novelist's job … For all of Violet's spunk and Shepherd's wryness, The Lacuna paints a sad and steady downward spiral. Tragedy rubs up against maudlin. And the title? Lacuna is Latin for a thing missing. Certainly there is no dearth of symbolic openings, holes and gaps – including a lost notebook and Shepherd's scarcely explored homosexuality – scattered throughout. But there is no enigma.