RaveThe Times (UK)The events that unfold around the narrator of this gloriously entertaining novel are wild and ridiculous but always strangely believable. Elizabeth McKenzie...creates characters constantly teetering on the edge of a swamp of absurdity ... In case you think I’m giving away too much, I have barely scratched the surface of the novel’s splendid plot. For some reason a talent for plotting is rather dismissed these days, as if making stuff up was easy, but all writers of fiction know it is the backbone of a good novel, and McKenzie is an excellent plotter.
Joyce Carol Oates
RaveThe Times (UK)This is partly a psychological thriller, partly an exposure of American attitudes to race and gender, and wholly the latest length cut from the seemingly endless unspooling of Joyce Carol Oates — this is her 59th novel, apparently, although I haven’t counted. Her prolificness and talent are the stuff of legend. Only at the very end do you see the extraordinary grip she has on her story and her characters ... Oates deals in familiar \'tropes\' (she’s too classy for mere clichés), but cleverly uses the reader’s prejudices and assumptions to confound our expectations; Babysitter is never quite the novel we think it’s going to be ... The only hint of authorial laziness is that all roads seem to lead back to a children’s home run by the Roman Catholic church ... Oates’s greatest power lies in her genius for old-fashioned storytelling. Babysitter is a novel that pulls the reader along at a rattling pace, throwing out all kinds of thrilling twists, and with an ending that is as surprising as it is bleak.
Vanessa Springora, tr. Natasha Lehrer
RaveThe Times (UK)Annabel Lyon cleverly peels away the layers to reveal the sins of the supposedly \'healthy\' sisters. She is unsentimental and writes with blistering honesty. Consent, which has been longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction, is the most truthful exploration of sisterhood I have read since Fleabag.
PanThe Times (UK)A national penchant for whimsy is the only thing wrong with the French. They probably can’t help it, but there’s no need to encourage them, and The Strays of Paris is soaked in whimsy down to its endpapers, which are maps drawn in the style of Dufy. I really don’t want to be mean about a novel that is essentially sweet-natured and elegantly written; it is nice enough, but boring to read, and it lacks the salt of genuine imagination.
RaveThe Times (UK)In the dying years of the past century there was a seemingly endless appetite for this sort of novel ... This is Jilly Cooper territory, with a whiff of Joanna Trollope; a lavish saga about privileged people behaving badly ... Rothschild is a writer of high intelligence, however, and she shakes these dear old tropes up into something more akin to John Lanchester’s blistering contemporary satire Capital ... Rothschild teases out the green shoots with skill and humour...Her characters make unexpected discoveries about themselves — hidden talents that could lead to money, or at least fulfilment. In the present century, the dilapidation of their ancestral home might be a bigger asset than its historical splendour ... If we take House of Trelawney as a light-hearted state-of-the-nation novel, it says a lot about the dangers of dwelling on past entitlement and the importance of unsentimental realism. Nobody gets anything for nothing — certain members of the royal family could learn something here.
RaveThe Times (UK)Vickers...worked for many years as a Jungian psychotherapist and, although her writing is blessedly free of psychobabble, her background is evident in the care with which she reveals her characters’ histories ... Grandmothers is a beautifully written and moving celebration of this love, too often unsung, that reaches out across the generations. It should be read by all grannies—so that’s one Christmas present sorted.
RaveThe Times (UK)Chevalier...has a well-known gift for immersing herself in a subject. Her research here is so thorough and so heartfelt that she manages to make the ancient art of embroidery interesting, even to those of us who wouldn’t dream of doing it ... There are a few dropped stitches in A Single Thread, when characters use modern expressions such as \'knackered,\' but they do not spoil the quality of the whole tapestry because Chevalier has such a sure eye for detail, whether she is describing the timeless loveliness of the cathedral or the dismal interior of a 1930s boarding house. Reading this is deeply pleasurable and the ending made me cry.
RaveThe Times (UK)The title of this fascinating memoir is deliberately ambiguous ... Wild Game is a memoir that reads like a novel. Brodeur’s writing is elegant — she is particularly good at describing the sights, sounds and smells of Cape Cod, with its sand dunes and fishing boats, and its perpetual harvest of clams and lobsters. I was strongly reminded of LP Hartley’s classic novel The Go-Between; both explore the feelings of a child caught in the complicated mesh of an adult love affair ... Wild Game describes — beautifully — the silent anguish of a child trapped in a tangled web of love and betrayal that affects her emotional decisions well into adulthood. \'Happy endings do not apply to everyone,\' she writes. \'Someone is always left out of that final, jubilant scene.\'
PositiveThe Times...we’re in the familiar territory of Brideshead Revisited and The Great Gatsby, in which an outsider observes a privileged elite. This story, however, quickly swerves off the well-trodden path into something disturbingly different ... I’m not surprised that there was a fierce bidding war for this novel. Price’s writing has a beautiful assurance, and she describes the after-effects of rape in a way that should make readers question their own prejudices.
Joyce Carol Oates
RaveThe Times (UK)My Life as a Rat is Oates at her best — a powerful, uncompromising story that explores racism, misogyny and recent American history ... Oates inhabits [the protagonist] with great sensitivity.
PositiveThe Times[a] wonderful, tragicomic novel ... Connolly’s research is immaculate, and the experiences of these ladylike political prisoners are well imagined. She has too much taste to point out that these prisoners, in the fascist state of their dreams, would either have been shot or sent to a concentration camp. In Britain they were locked up, but allowed to keep their fur coats.
PositiveThe Times...a blistering, savage, tragicomic satire about the cruelty of war and the impossibility of peace ... In this world everything is absurd; Hanif writes of violence and bitterness with flashes of hilarity that underline his anger and his humanity.
RaveThe Times... superb ... Lurking just beneath the glittering, fast-paced surface of the story are all sorts of disturbing things ... I have never read a novel that shows the experience of everyday, low-level racism so vividly, or so convincingly ... a funny, clever, heartbreaking lightning bolt of a first novel, by a writer bristling with talent.
PositiveThe Times\"A Ladder to the Sky is clever, chilling and beautifully paced; a study of inner corrosion that Patricia Highsmith herself could not have done better.\
RaveThe Times (UK)Surprisingly warm and heartfelt ... rowdy and joyous, with flashes of wit and insight, and ultimately moving. The brief chapters and bone-rattling pace make it interesting for anyone with a shortish attention span.
PositiveThe Times\"These stories showed Berlin’s extraordinary talent for landing in the middle of a life or a place and giving the reader an immediate sense of being there. Her writing is vivid, the pictures she makes are unforgettable. Evening in Paradise is a selection of her remaining stories, occasionally a touch scrappy, but mostly wonderful.\
PositiveThe Times... all the ingredients of a classic gothic novel. It is clear from the start that Bitter Orange cannot end well ... stories like this do not happen to plain people in ugly old houses. Fuller, however, always keeps one step ahead of the reader’s expectations, and she creates her atmosphere of simmering menace with all the assurance and imagination of a latter-day Daphne du Maurier.
PositiveThe TimesThe premise of Three Things About Elsie—a mystery from the past, investigated by someone whose memory is fractured by dementia—is similar to that of Emma Healey’s award-winning novel Elizabeth Is Missing. The difference is that Joanna Cannon, who trained as a doctor, writes of the various indignities of old age with great insight and intelligence ... Cannon forces her readers to confront their prejudices about people who happen to be old ... The detective-story element makes her new novel highly entertaining, and it begs to be adapted for the screen too, if Maggie Smith and Christopher Plummer are looking for a project.
RaveThe Times (UK)\"... stonkingly good ... one of the most compulsive psychological mysteries I have read since Donna Tartt’s The Secret History; a cut above your straightforward thriller, yet not too \'literary\' to slow down the momentum. It takes great skill to tell a story like this through the eyes of one character, and French pulls it off triumphantly, drip-feeding each revelation so that the reader is constantly confounded ... [The book is] richly detailed, beautifully executed and impossible to put down.\