PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewInto this ever-popular genre, Matt Haig’s The Midnight Library is a welcome addition ... The issue of the many Noras temporarily displaced from their own root lives is somewhat troubling. Where do they go in the interim? ... It can be hard to keep a reader’s energy invested in a depressed and somewhat listless character, but Nora is smart and observant; she remains good company ... There is likewise a danger that such a recursive plotline will tire the reader. But here, too, the book succeeds. At just the right moment, not too soon and not too late, Nora makes her final decisive move, taking us into the last section of the book. The ending is satisfying but not surprising. By the time it comes, in fact, only one choice still seems possible ... The narrative throughout has a slightly old-fashioned feel, like a bedtime story. It’s an absorbing but comfortable read, imaginative in the details if familiar in its outline. The invention of the library as the machinery through which different lives can be accessed is sure to please readers and has the advantage of being both magical and factual. Every library is a liminal space; the Midnight Library is different in scale, but not kind. And a vision of limitless possibility, of new roads taken, of new lives lived, of a whole different world available to us somehow, somewhere, might be exactly what’s wanted in these troubled and troubling times.
PositiveThe Washington Post...a beautifully wrought paean of praise for the ordinary pleasures taken for granted by the able-bodied. In precise and often luminous prose, with intelligence and tenderness, Weber’s latest novel examines the question of what makes a life worth living ... I love books in which I learn things. Along with the usual pleasures of a story with distinct and memorable characters, I learned from Still Life With Monkey a few of the techniques used in art restoration. I learned about a rare form of Song dynasty pottery known as Ru ware. I learned something of the social lives of capuchin monkeys ... This excellent novel is, however, all but spoiled by its ending. I counted on the imagination and intelligence shown in the rest of the book to carry through. Instead, we’re given the same appalling conclusion we see so often in tales of disability.
RaveThe Washington PostWhen Alcott wrote Little Women, she created a confusion between the real Alcotts and the fictional Marches. Geraldine Brooks continues this fruitful confusion. Among the characters in Brooks's book are the historical (Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, John Brown), the quasi-historical (the Marches), and the fully fictional (Grace Clement, a slave March knew as a young man and meets again during the war) … The final episode takes place in a Union hospital in Washington, D.C. For this part of the story, Brooks switches to Marmee's point of view, a move that brings us suddenly and nicely back to the world of Little Women. The Alcott book and characters have floated like ghosts all through March. That story of scorched gowns, amateur theatricals, pickled limes, balls and picnics and pianos provides a wonderfully effected, unstated but understood contrast to this story of the war. Brooks has taken a chance in evoking it so strongly at the end, but the chance pays off beautifully.