RaveThe Star TribuneKennedy describes their upper-middle-class bohemian way of life in perfect detail, the delicious, casually presented meals, the vintage doodads that ornament the kitchen, the polite, but condescending manner of most of them toward Cushla ... This is the reality of the Troubles, of beatings, revenge killings, executions, bombed out buildings ... That, too, Kennedy conjures in all its pervasive horror and fear ... This is a deeply evocative novel in the particularity of social description and ambience, in its atmosphere of menace, and in the urgency of the emotions portrayed — sexual passion, guilt, shame, fear, hatred and compassion. Kennedy is masterly in conveying the nature of Cushla\'s predicament ... Moving, hard-hitting.
RaveThe Star TribuneA short novel of uncommon spareness and delicacy ... finely wrought and subtle as ... There are in this story, as in all of Claire Keegan\'s work, layers of nuance and resonance. Every detail has bearing, some quietly salient, others possessing a delayed charge, so that, again and again, the reader feels the sharp thrill of comprehension. A stray heifer, a light at sea, that joke understood, all pregnant tokens of a fully realized universe of feeling. Keegan is the finest writer at work in Ireland today and this brilliant little book is further proof of it.
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalMs. Byrne, the author of two novels, as well as books, on Jane Austen and Evelyn Waugh, among others, gives us a work that surpasses in length and detail the two previous book-length accounts of Pym’s life ... Indeed, the most fascinating aspect and true strength of this very long biography is how completely Ms. Byrne shows that Pym’s life and fiction were part of a piece, and lets us see how she transferred facets of herself to her leading characters. Though different in age and material circumstance, these characters are all recognizably Pym-ish ... a long, exceedingly detailed book—too detailed, as Ms. Byrne appears to have been shackled to Pym’s journals and their record of important matters, but also of having tea, changing clothes, seeing friends off on the train, going shopping, having more tea, facts which add nothing to our appreciation of Pym or her work. But it is also a truly revealing work about a paradoxical writer, a woman who put bits of herself into her characters and yet was not really like them at all.
RaveStar TribuneHerron\'s plots are masterpieces of convolution and elegant wrong-footing. Beyond that, his action scenes are fast-paced and thrilling — there are a couple of high-octane doozies in this installment. But the real draw of the series is its dark, dark humor. Much of it is interpersonal, but the most biting of all concerns the state of Britain, a country beset by Brexit, COVID and incompetent, if mercenary, leadership ... If there is bad news, it is that you really should have read some of the previous Slough House novels in order to get a handle on this party of rejects, their histories and capabilities. Further, if you are a veteran of the series, you may have become a little weary of Jackson Lamb\'s extravagant foulness and his habit of magicking cigarettes and even himself out of nowhere. That said, this is still one of the most enjoyable series I have ever read.
MixedThe Star Tribune... a passionate memoir and investigation of inheritance and bloodlines ... Newton\'s research into these people and others is prodigious, marked by shrewd detective work, serendipitous discoveries and DNA evidence acquired from genetic genealogy companies ... Eventually, she attempts to deal with the crimes of her ancestors and, much to this reader\'s consternation, plunges whole-hog into mystical waters, communing with a couple ... This exit from the empirical world is, I must say, a rather deflating ending to a really fascinating, well written book.
RaveThe Star TribuneTracing the course of the nation from 1958, the year he was born, into the 21st century, O\'Toole shows with devastating detail how the Irish people\'s willfully blind, secretive disposition shielded them from acknowledging what was going on all around them ... This powerful book is a lucid, highly informative amalgam of memoir, national history, economic, social and cultural observation, and behind-the-scenes political intelligence. O\'Toole is superb in describing how a nation of steadfast unknowers remained determinedly oblivious to the mind-boggling coverups, scams, property speculations and financial schemes that brought down both the Church and the economy.
RaveThe Wall Street JournalGiven that Dickens’s life has been written to death, it is surprising and admirable how fresh Mr. Douglas-Fairhurst’s concentration on a single year turns out to be. He is convincing in pointing to the effect the Great Exhibition had on Dickens’s mounting preoccupation with social injustice and in showing how his many other pursuits fed into this. But one has to wonder at the book’s hackneyed and misleading subtitle. Eighteen fifty-one may have marked a change in Dickens’s work, but in the world? No. This fine book itself merits a change of title.
RaveThe Star TribuneDetailed and wide-ranging, the book covers natural phenomena—tides, salinity, geological formations, symbiosis among creatures—as well as myth, legend and words themselves, which, when delved into, offer a conduit back to a vanished understanding of existence ... Nicolson shows, depressingly, the continuing devastation wrought by human activity on the ecology of coastal regions ... It\'s a melancholy end to an informative, engaging and beautifully written book.
PositiveThe Star TribuneTracy Borman\'s Crown & Sceptre brings us in short, vivid chapters from William the Conqueror to Elizabeth herself, much of it constituting a dark record of bumping off adversaries, rivals and spouses, confiscating vast estates and military invasions. It is also an account of the rise and steady diminishment of royal power. Borman offers brisk descriptions of the circumstances each monarch met in assuming the crown and nimbly sketches his or her character and talents—or lack thereof ... Though dynastic troubles are woven into the fabric of British history, it is only one element in this lucid, character-rich book. Throughout, Borman traces the changing relationship between a weakening crown and the growing power and makeup of Parliament, the country\'s true ruler since the 17th century.
RaveThe Star TribuneBorman offers brisk descriptions of the circumstances each monarch met in assuming the crown and nimbly sketches his or her character and talents ... Though dynastic troubles are woven into the fabric of British history, it is only one element in this lucid, character-rich book. Throughout, Borman traces the changing relationship between a weakening crown and the growing power and makeup of Parliament, the country\'s true ruler since the 17th century.
RaveThe Wall Street JournalHer 2015 novel The Past is her masterpiece...not least in her depiction of the inner worlds of children, but her present novel, Free Love, approaches that work’s agility in capturing thought and feeling in flight ... Ms. Hadley perfectly captures this aspect of the ’60s, the urgency of wanting to join the paraded mystique and collective individuality of the beautiful people ... a penetrating, extraordinarily subtle novel about an unsubtle era. From a distance, its culture may seem to have been all surface: all sex, pot, fancy dress and political righteousness, but Ms. Hadley shows how it worked its changes into the lives and feelings of a handful of superbly conjured individuals.
RaveThe Star TribuneHis descriptions of these [farm] venerable contraptions are thrilling to read and include a stirring paean to a baler, the Hayliner ... This is a beautifully written, passionate memoir, its pages pungent with words that summon a past way of life...one lived in intimacy with the weather (generally horrible), in touch with the sky and earth and its creatures, domesticated and wild. When, approaching book\'s end, Laurie sells his first Galloway after five years of nothing but outlay, we rejoice with him.
RaveThe Star TribuneClaire Keegan...gives us her best work yet ... a short, wrenching, thoroughly brilliant novel mapping the path of one man\'s conscience, its torment and vacillation between two courses of action ... Keegan casts the movement of Furlong\'s thoughts amid the goodness of home, the life of the town, and the reality of the convent\'s prestige, prosperity and menacing power. She slips in little details that hint ineffably at great import. Subtle reverberations and stray observations mark Furlong\'s journey toward a never certain decision. Spare and potent, this is a remarkable story about a terrible crime and a riven conscience.
John Le Carré
RaveThe Wall Street Journal... the plot unfolds with as much cryptic cunning as a reader could want, and le Carré’s people are perfection, most especially the Service’s grand poohbahs, all in a discreet tizzy when they find they’ve been snookered by some renegade, conscience-stricken apostate. The fabric of duplicity and betrayal, though gratifyingly present here, is not so devastatingly intricate and shocking as in, say, A Most Wanted Man—whose ending is never far from the reader’s mind. Silverview is a minor work in the le Carré canon, but it is enjoyable throughout, written with grace, and a welcome gift from the past.
PositiveThe Star TribuneThe most surprising aspect of Akash Kapur\'s Better to Have Gone is the author\'s well-disposed view of the leaders, beliefs and practices of Auroville...[where] Kapur\'s wife, Auralice, lost her mother to suicide and her adoptive father to a mysterious wasting condition ... Despite this and other tragedies recorded here, the book provides a fascinating picture of an \'Ideal City\' brought into being by the ceaseless, grueling work of its first residents, \'idiot savants of endurance,\' as one man dubbed them. It is also a shrewd portrayal of some of the experiment\'s key players and of the backgrounds and beliefs of Diane and John, two stubborn, driven spiritual adventurers.
RaveThe Wall Street Journal... a disturbing black comedy ... Molly Keane’s greatest, most ingenious novel, distilling the author’s essential themes—obliviousness, heartlessness, snobbery, neediness and long-fermented spite ... The book offers a wicked portrait of a way of life—outdoor pursuits, reckless spending and sexual dalliance—that was the last glory and means of dissolution of an Anglo-Irish big house.
RaveThe Star Tribune... slim, quietly powerful ... The working out of the sadness and secrets of this little family is beautifully done, poignant rather than depressing, and ending on a sweet note. As in his past work, Ryan\'s prose is a miracle of fluidity, of country talk flowing in and out of people\'s thoughts, capturing the rural Irish soul in its whole essence as brilliantly as any writer ever has.
PositiveThe Star TribuneDuplicity abounds and just what the main characters are really up to is not what it seems. The pace picks up and the plot races into white-knuckle territory. If Our Woman in Moscow does not rise to the diabolic heights—or terrifying depths—of many novels in the field, it is a fine entertainment with, as it happens, a kindly heart.
PositiveThe Star Tribune... a fascinating history of the field and of the contributions of some very determined women. It is also a revealing account of the title\'s reverse: how changes in the way women lived affected home economics. Further, it explores an issue generally ignored: Home economics, as an organized field, was as permeated by racism as the society around it ... Dreilinger concludes this stimulating book with suggestions for resuscitating home economics, among them, restoring its name, emphasizing science and practical skills, and making it mandatory in school for everyone.
RaveThe Wall Street JournalHer most interesting characters are alert to the main chance, nursing various degrees of larceny in their hearts; while the more sympathetic—if less interesting—ones have grasped the paltriness of a life dedicated to getting and spending. In the seven artfully linked stories of Ms. Silber’s new novel...we find both types, but once again those who display the will to be canny, which money in the offing or in the pocket seems to confer, are the most deeply penetrated and superbly conjured ... Each of the seven sections engages our interest right off the bat; each has a first sentence pregnant with promise ... Having seized our attention, Ms. Silber pushes forward into her characters’ stories, summing up in fleet, fluid prose the circumstances and acts that have shaped their lives to this point, then slipping deftly into further events where, for better or worse, the gravitational force of money can be felt ... Despite their unity of theme, Ms. Silber’s stories are the furthest thing from didactic ... they are rich with the complexities of life; the characters’ motives and their decisions arise out of personalities meeting circumstance. Further, the stories create a world made fully dimensional through changes of perspective—major characters appear and reappear as part of one or another’s experience and testimony ... It is a fine thing, subtly done, and truly exhilarating.
PositiveWall Street JournalThe story revolves around another of Taverner’s ambitious, misbegotten projects—this one so enterprising and unscrupulous that the reader can’t help thinking that it has precedent in the real world ... Mr. Herron’s series captures and builds on the noxious spirit of the age, of disillusion and fanaticism, and brings special attention to increasingly dysfunctional government intelligence agencies, self-aggrandizing organizations where secrecy and covert operations flourish, where blame-shifting is routine and obfuscation house style ... Mr. Herron goes about this with bouncing black humor and a set of characters whose appearance and manner would be over the top in any other era. Happily for Mr. Herron—if alas for us—events continue to produce rich material for his special gifts, and we hope he is scribbling away making good use of it all.
Janice P. Nimura
PositiveThe Star TribuneIf The Doctors Blackwell is not exactly a lively book, we may put this down to the \'chilly company,\' as Nimura puts it, of its subjects ... If we cannot find the sisters endearing, we must honor them for their contribution to the health and, despite their dim view of the female character, to the rights of women.
PositiveThe Star Tribune... for its richly descriptive contribution to the literature of harrowing expeditions, Andrea Pitzer\'s deeply researched Icebound: Shipwrecked at the Edge of the World is most welcome ... the real grip of the book lies in the horrendous dangers and hardships endured by Barents and his shipmates, and the determination with which they met them ... Sitting in my warm, secure house, even I was utterly (and agreeably) terrified and marveled as I always do at the courage and stamina of early explorers.
Sigrid Undset, trans. By Tiina Nunnally
RaveThe Star TribuneThe plot, more of which I will not reveal, emerges naturally, intricately and inevitably from the makeup of the characters’ souls, especially Ingunn’s, which deepens throughout. As she did so powerfully in Kristin Lavransdatter, Undset matches the precision and force of her characters’ inner lives — lacerated by indecision, sunk in sorrow or transported by joy — with her evocation of a vanished age and depictions of the life-affirming beauty of nature ... This is a novel you wish would never end — and it doesn’t, not yet: The following volumes will be appearing over the next three years.
RaveThe Minneapolis Star TribuneHart has all the tools for a writer of thrillers: wit, a knack for creating nearly unbearable suspense, and a light, unobtrusive touch in conveying information, in this case on diamonds — on the geological formations in which they are found, the ways they are processed, how they can be altered, and their use in criminal activities as \'a kind of cash, except without serial numbers.\' ... If we are lucky, Alex Turner will return, though right now he is in need of a rest.
MixedThe Wall Street Journal... fascinating though relentlessly detailed ... Ms. Flanders has collected enough material on her subject to fill all the ingenious cabinets and filing devices found in the book’s illustrations. The plethora of detail often overwhelms the truly revelatory dimension of the work ... Ms. Flanders has taken on a huge, sprawling subject, one that is not at all straightforward. The quantity of detail she piles on the reader is overwhelming, comprising myriad instances of precursor arrangements, innovations, variations, and transitional modes of organizing and cross-referencing ... Many of these topics could be expanded into books of their own, but here they are all jammed into fewer than 350 pages. The incongruous result is a book about the orderly arrangement of information in whose pages information runs riot.
RaveThe Star TribuneThe ambience and detail of Banville’s book are superb, but the story itself is ham-fisted, most especially in a long section, simply plopped down out of nowhere, devoted to the priest’s thoughts of a decade earlier in which he describes his activities. Though clues, red herrings, and another dead body litter the pages, there is no real plot here and when the solution to the murder comes it is predictable—except for a final coda, which is frankly unbelievable. John Banville is a great writer, but perhaps he has run out of material.
RaveMinneapolis Star Tribune...penetrating and elegantly written ... This is only to touch the surface of this fine book which, while sharply focused on Faulkner’s writing, is broad in the scope of its research ... he writes with clarity and grace, producing a work that is deep and learned without being deformed by jargon or academic costiveness ... a revelation.
RaveThe Minneapolis Star Tribune... extraordinary ... You could not find a better demonstration of the central truth about forgeries: that historical verisimilitude does not lie in reflecting the sensibility of the past but rather in fulfilling the persuasions and aspirations of the present ... It would be unfair to tell you, for, in truth, the book is as good as a detective novel, possessing plot, subplots, hidden motives, bees in eccentric bonnets and startling revelations
MixedThe Star TribuneDePalma opens up these lives, following spouses, children and colleagues, showing the determination and ingenuity with which Cubans have overcome material hardship and the rigors of their own government ... The 1990s...Cubans were reduced to eating fried grapefruit peel and, if DePalma is to be believed (which, in this instance, I do not), cut-up blankets in tomato sauce ... While reading his book, one wished DePalma had asked those of his subjects who remembered pre-revolutionary Cuba how the two dispensations compared. Certainly, under communism, speech and the media are policed and travel out of the country is tightly controlled. On the other hand, as he acknowledges, education and medical care have improved for ordinary people, even as a punitive United States has crippled the country’s economy.
PositiveThe Star TribuneNathanson follows Bouton through his attempted comeback with Atlanta, his many campaigns and business ventures, including his support for liberal causes, his investment in Big League Chew, and his attempt to save an old ballpark in Pittsfield, Mass. Some schemes panned out; more didn’t. Nathanson is gentle with Bouton and does not dwell on the man’s own peccadillos. This is a book for Bouton’s fans — of which I am one.
MixedThe Wall Street JournalIt must be said that this love affair, whose course serves as the book’s plot, is ludicrously melodramatic, not to say sappy ... Colonel Webb, the lovers’ nemesis and villain of the piece, is as blackguardly as Snidely Whiplash ... Fortunately, there is a vast stretch of Texas territory to traverse before the love birds meet again, and this is where Ms. Jiles excels. Her description of Simon and Doris traveling on separate journeys across the Texas landscape is superb, causing us to feel the elation and sense of possibility that rises in the hearts of man, woman and beast in setting out on the road ... On a grimmer note, but with equal adeptness, Ms. Jiles shows the dismal aftermath of the Civil War in Texas, especially in towns ... All this is powerful, but the novel as a whole lacks the rigor and command of News of the World.
PositiveThe Wall Street Journal... a brilliant engagement with the exercise and metaphysics of power in 16th-century Europe, an age in which sovereignty was understood to be divinely conferred, channeled through blood. This puts the emphasis on bodies, one of Ms. Mantel’s specialties. Throughout the work she has given grisly attention to flesh and blood, writing with macabre relish of the horrors inflicted by various methods of judicial killing: decapitation; hanging, drawing and quartering; burning at the stake. She fills Cromwell’s head with such ghastly scenes, among them the aftermath of the executions of Anne’s supposed lovers, their \'corpses, promiscuous, heaped upon a cart: their pale English limbs intermingled, their heads in sodden bags\' ... All this we can find in histories and biographies, but it is Ms. Mantel’s depiction of Cromwell’s inner workings, so credibly and vividly imagined, that make the work great, as do the characters she summons. Filtered through Cromwell’s eyes, they are described with fantastical brio ... Ms. Mantel has wonderfully conjured the mentality, materiality and channels of power in a vanished age, and, in the case of Cromwell, the objectives, machinations and emotions of an intricate mind ... For all its magnificence and scope, however, this final volume is really too long, with too many wearisome pages spent fossicking through Cromwell’s proliferating memories.
PositiveThe Minneapolis Star TribuneAlthough the novel produces eventual gunfire and a dead body or two, the plot, such as it is, is more a series of episodes through which Black demonstrates his deftness in evoking milieu, ambience, and the points of view of several mordantly drawn characters ... If this story cannot be found in history, it is an entertaining conceit — and feeds our own republic’s unappeasable appetite for the Royals.
RaveNewsday...as intense and excruciating to read as any novel I have ever held in my hand ... The heartbreaking futility of this, the boy’s perpetual state of anxiety and dread, is almost unbearable ... It is grindingly, terribly real — and nearly too much ... The book’s evocative power arises out of the author’s talent for conjuring a place, a time, and the texture of emotion ... This is a hard, grim book, brilliantly written and, in the end, worth the pain which accompanies reading it.
Michael Crichton and Daniel H. Wilson
MixedNewsdayThough Wilson has perfectly captured the suspense of the original, not to mention the aridity of its relentless techno-nonsense, we quickly notice that evolution has been at work in quarters other than the microscopic: Through some adaptive mutation, women have moved beyond the primitive roles of frightened wife and switchboard \'girl\' and have evolved into major players ... what we might call the human element here, its intrigues, blunders, and triumphs, keeps things moving—much more so, in fact, than Andromeda’s elaborate, not to say preposterous, carryings-on.
PanThe Minneapolis Star Tribune... a jumble of violence, treachery and improbability. Though inoculated with conspiracy, the novel, Harris’ 13th, is his least diabolically savvy; the conceit upon which it is based is shopworn, while its plot, after delivering one nicely evil surprise, finally gives up and ends with a thunk.
RaveThe Barnes & Noble Review...a deep historical sense and generous material detail with truly diabolical suspense ... The chase, as it may be called, is an enthralling and labyrinthine one over land and sea ... This is a completely engrossing novel, rich in the details and feeling for a vanished age, deft in character portraits, and almost unbearably suspenseful. It is, in fact, the sort of book that takes more will power than I normally possess to prevent myself, while reading it, from turning ahead to the last page. I held myself back, though, and was duly rewarded.
RaveThe Wall Street JournalFittingly, the children’s language is blunt and old-fashioned, an earth- and sea-engaged vernacular which deepens the novel’s mood of lives wrested from nature—stud tilt, rot oil, slutlamp, coopy, cuddy, yaffles, mollyfodge, dwy, bawn—potent words from a vanished way of being ... The big events in the novel are few, but are all the more momentous for that ... A terrible tension runs through the book. So much is felt by these young people, so little is tamed by language or blunted by experience. This is an extraordinary novel, emotionally precise, vivid in its portrayal of nature, and subtle in its exploration of the relationship between life and story.
PositiveNewsday... chilling ... the novel picks up some depth in its treatment of difficult, sometimes toxic relationships between fathers and sons. Eventually, its mysterious elements do converge and slot together — though not without a good deal of assistance from coincidence and the paranormal. That, however, does not take away from the story’s galvanic suspense.
PositiveThe Barnes & Noble ReviewMy Parents: An Introduction is filled with astute ruminations on the older Hemons’ way of life in Bosnia and in exile, including the central place of food, literature, and music ... The book is replete with Hemon’s mordant humor and one feels the pleasure he takes in the incongruous and out-of-place ... There are parts of this section of the book [This Does Not Belong to You] that are somewhat wearisome, specifically certain attempts at paradox and profundity ... Elsewhere, his musings on memory are far more convincing ... scraps of memory do belong to everyone, and sickeningly so as a person grows older and finds it harder and harder to bear the mystery of how the vanished realms of the past and its people can endure so inaccessibly and tormentingly in the mind. That, in essence, is what this strange book is about.
RaveThe Wall Street JournalThe characters in Deep River are grounded in work, and Mr. Marlantes conveys the elements, arcana and dangerous romance of logging superbly. His descriptions of logging itself—the ingenious mechanics of taking down trees and the skill of experienced loggers—are wonderfully detailed, dramatic and exhilarating ... Mr. Marlantes’s graphic portrayals of the devastation that indiscriminate logging brought to old-growth forests, the pitiless exploitation of loggers who labored from dawn to dusk, and the ghastly injuries they suffered are vivid and sickening. On the other hand, an overall sense of the country’s vigorous, can-do attitude in the first decades of the 20th century is palpable ... Mighty physical, social and economic forces operate the plot of this novel, buffeting its characters, raising them up, flinging them down, twisting their fates together. Deep River is a big American novel, akin to Annie Proulx’s Barkskins and, to an extent, Ken Kesey’s Sometimes a Great Notion.
PositiveNewsday... both an entertaining caper fueled by coincidence and a sordid story of human trafficking ... After the main characters are all up and running, their personalities in high gear, events become gratifyingly sinister: Abduction, murder, enslavement, and the reverberation of past iniquities mark the plot, one which is spun out from the viewpoints of half a dozen characters. Their minds are constantly abuzz with unspoken, sardonic or self-deprecating commentary, a feature that, along with Atkinson’s quiet whimsy and mischievous liberality with coincidence, gives this writer’s work its unique comic flair and lightens the dark unraveling of monstrous crimes ... The plot of Big Sky is something of a ramshackle affair, but it hardly matters. Kate Atkinson is a wayward writer, her books are, in the end, uncategorizable. Her Jackson Brodie novels are both more than crime novels — and less. They are sui generis and they, like this one, are enormously enjoyable.
S. A. Lelchuk
MixedThe Washington Post[Lelchuk ] has effectively (if opportunistically) given voice to a certain kind of female — a tough girl along the lines of Stieg Larsson’s Lisbeth Salander, or Elizabeth Jennings in the TV series The Americans ... While his book lacks plausibility and narrative grab, Lelchuk writes in clean, punchy sentences. He also has a fine gift for description ... Lelchuk gives us memorable portraits of the various ecosystems in the Bay Area.
RaveNewsday...a nimble exercise in storytelling in which [Phelan] shapes his recollections into a series of richly detailed vignettes ... [the book] captures the essence and detail of a rural Irish boy’s world ... The small compass of this universe lends its people, places and events epic significance ... Plain, honest, funny, occasionally sad and rich in material detail, this wonderful memoir has none of the hardscrabble caperings and gooped-up melodrama of Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes, with which it will no doubt be compared. This is the real thing.
RaveThe Wall Street Journal\"Ms. Miller gives us a thorough view of Letitia’s character as relentless flatterer, flirt and self-promoter, but also as a desperate woman, both raised-up and ruined by her relationship with a powerful but truly awful man ... [These details only touch on] the details of Letitia Landon’s life as patched together and filled out by Ms. Miller, who has ably dispersed a mighty welter of deception, obfuscation and evasion ... Miller quotes and analyzes [Landon\'s work] with revelatory insight ... In this infinitely rich literary biography, Ms. Miller treats the life and the work dialectically, each informing and shaping the other...\
RaveNewsday...[a] wonderfully complex, many-stranded novel ... Gornick weaves it all into the fictional fabric with exceptional cunning ... A nimble exercise in interlaced stories and psychological insight, The Peacock Feast is marvelously rich in character, event and locale ... Along the way, the several story lines address the balance of chance and fate, opportunity taken and opportunity denied, the cost of buried memory and the centrality of loss. The result is a thoroughly rewarding novel and, though not terribly long, a truly mighty one.
RaveBarnes & Noble Review\"... Rachel Ingalls... is funny in an exceptionally dry way, in a way that does not appeal to readers who like things spelled out ... part of the brilliance... lies in the way Ingalls captures the everyday bathos of a neglected, hard-done-by wife and then turns around to startle us with an almost festive regeneration through a relationship with an impossible creature ... It is pleasant for the reader to witness the blossoming of Millie... But nothing is so thoroughly rewarding and impressive as the way Ingalls conveys Stan’s view of the situation and, indeed, of his view of the Africans he is intent on observing. He gets everything wrong, and does so with the greatest confidence, always interpreting facts so they accord with his own opinions. The subtlety with which Ingalls captures self-delusion made me hug myself with joy ... I put Binstead’s Safari with Angus Wilson’s Anglo-Saxon Attitudes and Barbara Pym’s Excellent Women as one of the three greatest—and funniest—novels about the self-regarding world of anthropologists.\
PositiveNewsday\"An Orchestra of Minorities is big novel of exile and tribulation, acted out, at one level, in a mythical realm, a cosmological territory crammed with sprits unfamiliar to most Western readers. At another level, the novel teems with people busy with down-to-earth matters of daily living, these often described by our disembodied narrator with dry, gloom-dispelling humor. The presence of this kindly chi, so concerned for the welfare of his hapless charge, makes this rich and tragic story bearable and rewarding.\
MixedThe Wall Street Journal\"... the two daughters have their own anguish to deal with, all pricked out by Ms. Hadley with her characteristic acuity. Still, something is badly missing. Ms. Hadley’s evocation of mood and ability to describe an ever-changing kaleidoscope of feeling are as adept as they ever were, but where is the humor? Where is the undercurrent of gentle but astringent irony that has been so winningly present in most of her previous work ... Late in the Day offers only a ruminative unfolding of emotion, all acutely observed and recorded at ground level, unaerated by irony or even the mildest comedy. It leaves the novel flat, and when Christine finally unlocks her studio door and leaves us behind, we too are more than ready to move on.\
PositiveBarnes & Noble Review\"... a very fine novel about a fully realized character living in particular time and place ... Milkman is not an easy read and, to be honest, the narrative seems, at times, to be awfully slow; yet it pays off. Even the slowness pays off, gradually laying down layers and layers of feeling as incidents accumulate, as the narrator’s circumstances mutate, and as the plot veers off in unexpected directions. In the end, I, at least, felt a certain joy...\
PositiveThe Wall Street Journal...magnificent ... Ms. Leavy is generous with examples of entertainingly mawkish media coverage of Ruth ... Ms. Leavy provides a detailed look at Ruth’s earnings over his career ... [a] wealth of research, detail and astuteness of observation.
RaveThe Washington PostThe books are based on actual events with characters and deeds embellished to create marvelous historical novels. The present book finds Constance as both deputy and matron of the female prisoners at the Hackensack county jail in the autumn of 1916. Though she often sleeps at the jail, she still lives on the farm with her sisters ... The story begins with a high-speed foot chase through the streets of Hackensack as Constance runs down a thief and tackles him. \'Nothing,\' she tells us, \'is more heartening than a solid arrest, made after a little gratifying physical exertion.\' ... the novel excels in revisiting a vanished time, place and sensibility.
PositiveBarnes and Noble ReviewClaire Tomalin brings the same scrutiny and forensic intelligence to her own beginnings in A Life of My Own as she brought to the more shadowy aspects of the lives she investigated in her celebrated biographies ... The world’s bookshelves groan under the weight of memoirs of people whose lives have been warped by unloving parents, but this is not one of them ... Tomalin seems to have known or met just about everyone big and, as a result, she includes interludes of names-notching which, I am compelled to say, have all the narrative flow of a guest register. If the book has a fault it is here ... On the other hand, the book is also one of the rare instances of a work in which writing is made to seem interesting, even exciting. She brings the experience of being a biographer alive.
PositiveNewsdayGekoski never overdoes it, allowing the man to reveal himself and to develop a better self without too much authorial elucidation. The other main characters, though fully drawn... are more explained than shown, and more stereotypical of their era ... In his acknowledgments, Gekoski tells us that the novel originated in his attempts to write a memoir ... Gekoski has added fictional elements, but his seeming desire to pin down the era and document his characters’ social, economic and political positions has a somewhat calcifying effect on the story ... engaging.
RaveBarnes and Noble Review...[a] truly absorbing, wide-ranging book ... As Emre shows, the Myers-Briggs Personality Indicator, like other tests of aptitude, was shot through with bias ... The book is filled with startling material including the influence on Katharine and Isabel of The Great Gatsby (1925) with its portrait of a methodically-assembled personality ... The Personality Brokers is a rich, fair-minded book of enormous scope and deftly presented detail. It encompasses biography as well as social, cultural, and business history, and shows magnificently what a pivotal decade the 1920s were in America.
RaveWall Street Journal\"There is in this novel, as in all of Ms. Atkinson’s, a sense of absurd predicament expressed in wonderful comic set pieces filled with material detail and running jokes ... So what is this extraordinarily entertaining novel really about? A great part of its genius is the way it can’t be summarized. It materializes out of foreshadowings, reverberations, revisions and transformations... And, indeed, Ms. Atkinson’s buoyant wit and cheerful irony make the misfortunes in these lives, including Juliet’s, not tragedies but kind-hearted lessons in the human condition.\
RaveThe Minneapolis Star Tribune\"Rather than deciding on any one version, Brown has let the effervescent biography Ninety-Nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret expand \'like the universe itself,\' ranging freely from certified fact through opinion, speculation, gossip, fantasy, dreams, fiction and flights of counterfactual whimsy ... In addition to giving us a fantastical portrait of a woman painted by many hands, this wicked, thoroughly entertaining book presents a rich, unwholesome slice of social and cultural history of Britain.\
PositiveBarnes and Noble ReviewThe scenes of food preparation and of kitchen politics are vivid, precise, and informed and among the best in the book ... These three lives, suspended in the limbo of a sea voyage, broaden and deepen as conditions aboard the ship worsen and bring this splendid novel to a dramatic and enigmatic close, one I encourage you to encounter for yourself.
Sayaka Murata, Trans. by Ginny Tapley Takemori
PositiveThe Barnes & Noble ReviewIt is not a realistic novel and not, as I see it, a parable or allegory (thank God). For one thing, it is very funny ... The book is hard to define; let’s just say that it is a weird social commentary, an exercise in hyperbole, a paean to order, and, not least, a celebration of the complex design that goes unnoticed by all who step into the humble convenience store.
Bill Clinton & James Patterson
MixedNewsday\"The novel, though too long and — except for the threat of cyberterrorism — ludicrous in its plot elements, does have a satisfying twist at the end. So, we wonder: Who wrote what? Patterson is known for providing the plots and outlines for many of his countless books and then delegating the actual writing to a co-author, but it is hard to envision such a master-assistant relationship in the present case. Bill Clinton no doubt contributed his melancholy experience with political inquisitions, his persecution by a vicious media, his understanding of the burdens presidents bear, and a concluding speech that goes on and on in the grand Clintonian manner. And, perhaps, too, it was his fertile imagination that created the selfless, compassionate, fantastically brave, high-minded president at the book’s center.\
MixedThe Wall Street JournalThe 10 stories that make up the new and presumably final collection hit the familiar themes and possess an even grimmer sense of a postlapsarian world. Never guilty of unrelieved kindness toward his characters, Trevor seems overtly punitive in some of these stories ... The stories here are more spare than previous works—a few could be called etiolated—moving without Trevor’s usual color, detail or dialogue toward what we may call their message ... I hope that someday a great compendium of William Trevor’s stories will appear and that, when it does, there will still be readers who can appreciate their spareness and humor, the vast reach of their creator’s imagination into the lives of others, the finesse with which he shocks us, and his appreciation of our temporal lot, where nothing really works out except endurance and resignation.
RaveWall Street JournalWhile looking back to this time with pleasure, she does not idealize it as an era of sweetness and light, noting that racism was far more overt and the reserve clause made playing professional ball a form of indentured servitude ... The simple truth is that baseball matters because—as she also maintains, though less didactically—the game has, for better or worse, 'played a role in American history that goes far beyond amusement or entertainment.' Put another way, baseball, the greatest of all games, matters because it links us to the past and is part of our identity.
RaveBarnes & Noble[T]he quality that stands out in Hollinghurst’s novels, and here again, is the unstrained precision of his prose style, a justness and aptness of description that send happy jolts of recognition through the reader ... Hollinghurst has few equals in the exactness with which he summons up human traits, often with comic brio ... As with so many passages in this novel, everything is perfect here: the scene, the visual truth, the pacing, the mood, and, not least, the author’s kindly touch.
MixedNewsdayStill Me is the third installment in the adventures of Louisa Clark, she of the ditsy fashion sense and knack for sweetening up sourpusses … Agnes can’t bear going to all the social and top-dollar philanthropic events her station in life demands, and Louisa’s mission is to buck her up. And she does, treating us along the way to some nicely sardonic descriptions of high-net-worth Manhattan … While Moyes is an entertaining, often very funny, and pleasantly sappy writer, more and more of Louisa’s story takes place in her memory — a sign to us that she’s ready for retirement.
MixedThe Barnes & Noble ReviewIn the novel’s favor, I can say that it shows a fine sense of time and place in each venue, and there are some terrific set pieces ... A number of images are truly arresting, one being a waterfront street ending at a great wall of steel: the vast hull of a ship rising to inconceivable heights. There are, too, a couple of excellently drawn self-important characters, though their time on the stage is sadly brief. All in all, however, the story has an awful rattle of devices: the recurrent theme of walls, random echoes of the past, some portentous stories-within-stories, and that truly irksome mosaic — which is meant, it is suggested, to explain . . . something. Rather than pulling the story together, these literary maneuvers serve to diminish it, making it serve as a showcase, while the plot itself becomes a litter of miscellaneous parts.
PositiveBarnes & Noble Review\"... Rachel Ingalls... is funny in an exceptionally dry way, in a way that does not appeal to readers who like things spelled out ... part of the brilliance of [the book] lies in the way Ingalls captures the everyday bathos of a neglected, hard-done-by wife and then turns around to startle us with an almost festive regeneration through a relationship with an impossible creature ... this novel’s sensibility is gloriously low-key even as weirdness abounds.\
RaveThe Barnes & Noble ReviewThe novel, which is animated by a current of gothic horror, depicts the social ferment, the ideological passion, and, ultimately, the smashed visions of the late eighteenth century; it is rich in details of material life — and death; and it powerfully conveys the emotional urgency of its characters. We feel that the lives of these fictional beings are just as real as those of actual people whose ideas and exertions contributed to the tenor of those times, lives that are lost to us now in the murk of the past. We feel, too, Dunmore’s deepened awareness of this and believe she did indeed have an intimation at some level that she, at least in body and mind, would soon be part of the past. Her finest books, among them The Siege, her last one, Exposure, and this one will, I hope, keep both her memory and those of her characters alive for as long as people read novels.
RaveNewsdayThe new novel is fairly straightforward in construction but superbly devious in plot — its characters time and again blind to the true nature of the situations in which they find themselves ... The novel is a great exercise in storytelling might, throwing out two buttressing tales ... Egan’s extraordinary virtuosity of description and power of evoking a historical milieu are on display throughout Manhattan Beach, which is alive with fully realized, brilliantly rendered characters; even minor players are picked out in unforgettable detail ... this truly fine novel, so rich in period and emotional atmosphere and so cunningly plotted, is a joy (and a terror) — one of the standouts of the year.
RaveThe Barnes and Noble ReviewProblematical and complex versions of sacrifice and their ramifications run through this book ... Such fascination with sacrifice and its endless demands — willingly embraced, reluctantly endured, or guiltily refused — belongs to the Catholic Church of an earlier age and to a vanished sensibility and milieu, all evoked to perfection by McDermott. This is an exquisitely deep novel and a triumph.
RaveNewsdayIn addition to capturing the personalities of the two brothers, Markel does an extraordinary job covering the many complex dimensions of this story, including John’s later, unfortunate embrace of his own idiosyncratic version of the pseudoscience of eugenics ... Markel, the author of three previous, well-received histories has, by reaching into a simple box of cornflakes, come up with a rich and satisfying account of the lives, work and enmity of two warring brothers and of a pivotal epoch in American history.
PanThe Washington Post...a narrative that lies somewhere between a tourist guide, an account of a point-to-point rally across Bulgaria and a shaggy-dog story ... Events continue to unfold or, more precisely, collapse, and the denouement does not account at all for why it arrived by such a tortuous and frustrating route.
RaveThe Boston GlobeThe boisterous plot is perfectly in keeping with its mid-18th century setting ... This wonderful novel concludes with one further revelation, one that will make you reflect once again what a gloriously tricky fellow this Francis Spufford is.
RaveThe Barnes & Noble Review\"In addition to being the most exciting, suspenseful, Machiavellian book I have read this year, The Force could serve as the set text for an entire course on ethics. In its pages notions of right and wrong, justice and law, integrity and duplicity, professional duty and personal obligation are dissected, extrapolated, and rearranged in every sort of macabre permutation ... Winslow brings the same mastery of the anatomy of corruption to this book that he brought to the Mexican drug trade and our ruinous \'war on drugs\' in The Power of the Dog and The Cartel, his brilliant duo of narco-thrillers. Laying bare the intertangled ganglia of criminal enterprise, law enforcement, the justice system, and politics, he displays a deep and unsavory knowledge of how things work in NYC.\
PanNewsdaythe characters — so multitudinous and so lacking in personality or dimension — are just plain stingy with what they know, rather than deluded or self-justifying. Taken together, they provide a welter of incomplete information and withheld knowledge ... This is an unfortunate follow-up to The Girl on the Train and, we are hoping, an aberration.
PositiveThe Barnes & Noble ReviewIn a wonderful essay, 'Shelley Unbound,' Holmes discusses the warping effect the actual events in a subject’s life have on our later assessment of that subject. This is a very odd, very astute observation, and one he explores brilliantly ... Holmes has called himself 'an experimental biographer . . . fascinated equally by lives as they are lived, and lives as they are told.' The pieces here are an expression of that ... as each sends the story off in a different direction. Life may be short, but biography never ends.
PanThe Boston GlobeI will say that tastes do differ, and some people may — and obviously do — like the sort of off-kilter imagery and down-home profundity that fill these pages ... In addition to supplying Thomas with such costive, gnomic observations, Barry has saddled him — Irish born and bred though he is — with a hokey, Old-West manner of speaking, the likes of which I have never heard outside of parody ... The previous McNulty novels have linguistic exuberance, but they are controlled works. Here Barry seems to be making everything up including Thomas’s portentous manner of speech.
RaveThe Barnes & Noble ReviewThe present novel is also a satire, but it goes more deeply into hearts of its characters than its predecessors and, in that way, is an even more accomplished work ... Adiga’s disgust with the inequity, exploitation, and hypocrisy of Indian society runs through the novel in a subtle, acidic current, but it is also spelled out, in one case by himself ... Except for providing a short, insouciant glossary of cricketing terms, Adiga does not pander to those of us for whom the game is a mystery. Instead, he writes about cricket just as his characters see and understand it. But whether one has made cricket one’s life study or just blundered on in American innocence, one can still thoroughly appreciate the predicaments, conflicts, and torments of Adiga’s characters, and that, after all, is this fine novel’s real subject.
PositiveThe Barnes & Noble ReviewBefore unleashing the answers to these crucial questions, Harris gives us a few splendidly satirical pictures of the workings of the Vatican, not least in the matter of ecclesiastical pelf ... Harris, the writer, loves the maneuverings and machinations of power-mongers, but he is just as superb here in showing men of true faith wrestling with the legitimacy of their own wishes and trying to fathom God’s will as events unfold ... All in all, Conclave is not one of Harris’s best works; still, the political aspects of papal selection, the pressure of the 'news cycle,' and the wheeling and dealing and backstabbing are excellently realized and put forward with a good deal of sardonic wit.
RaveThe Chicago Tribune...brilliant and heartbreaking ... [a] remarkable and moving biography ... Franklin has shown the interplay between the life, the work, and the times with real skill and insight, making this fine book a real contribution not only to biography, but to mid-20th-century women's history.
RaveThe Barnes & Noble ReviewThese strands of allusion and connotation — some as subtle as gossamer, some as conspicuous as a hawser — contribute to the novel’s deftly manipulated tension. I cannot in good conscience reveal more of the plot. I came to this story in a state of innocence, and I feel that its terrific power depended in great part on the gradual unfolding of unlooked-for events. So, I leave this pleasure for you to experience in its unadulterated form.
RaveThe Barnes & Noble Review""Millard has enriched this tale of adventure with details of the quiddities and tribulations of late-nineteenth-century British warfare ... I read this book with real pleasure (and pounding heart). It is, quite simply, a thumping good read.""
PositiveThe Boston Globe...a fine work, adept and compelling in voice, plot, and moral complexity ... Donoghue tightens the tension, gradually adding small elements that in the end will come together in a sad and frightening picture, one tinted with the dark shades of Ireland’s brand of misogynistic, flesh-denying Catholicism ... Donoghue deals out the cards with real skill. If the ending itself does not seem entirely believable, I, at least, could not have wished it arranged otherwise.
PositiveThe Barnes & Noble ReviewIt’s all pretty haphazard. On the other hand, the individual scenes are excellently done and convey the disappointed, dead-end feeling that pervaded the land in the last several years. McInerney portrays the lot of the losers with excruciating verisimilitude ... The novel ends on a note of redemption that, if not entirely credible, offers at least kindness in a world of souls starved for it.
PositiveThe Barnes & Noble ReviewThe novel’s plot is serviceable, possessing an appropriate roster of possible culprits and a wide array of laptops, cell phones, and CCTVs through which to rummage; still, the book’s real strength lies in its characters: their personalities, their emotions, and their little ways ... This is a most promising start to what, I hope, will be a substantial series.
PanThe Boston GlobeThe entire experiment with perspective is presided over by a disembodied, clairvoyant docent who tips us to future plot developments as well as to those which take place off the page. In the end, the facts, when finally assembled, of Daniel’s guilty secret are not especially convincing ... [Farrell's] writing conveys as vivid a sense of the place as it has in the past. But unlike her last couple of books, fine novels about completely believable people with credible secrets, sorrows, and vexed relationships, the present work has a desperate scrabbling quality and is not at all worthy of this writer’s talent.
RaveNewsdayA multitudinous cast of characters troops through the novel, the personality and appearance of each portrayed with Dickensian exuberance ... The novel’s scope is huge and encompassing, its vision panoramic at times, at others focused minutely on all the doings and undoings of individuals: those left ravaged by the destruction of their way of life, and those engaged in the business enterprise at the heart of this book, from logging camp and river transport to sawmill on up to the boardroom. The novel is quite simply tremendous and, of Annie Proulx’s many fine works, Barkskins stands, in my view, as her masterpiece.
Simon Sebag Montefiore
RaveThe Christian Science Monitorit took only the introduction to enslave me, and I have spent the last week or so neglecting practically everyone except for Montefiore's variously ruthless, despotic, sexually voracious, bibulous, unstable, addlepated, and gifted Romanovs. The author's ease of manner, his limber way with historical intricacy and statecraft, and his connoisseur's appreciation of personality, foible, and family unpleasantness – all that – render the familiar territory fresh, and the less-familiar memorable.
PositiveThe Barnes & Noble ReviewBut now I must say something about Morgan’s style, which is as much a presence in this book as any character or theme. Many of her descriptions are powerful and precise, especially in passing on horse lore and in describing such dynamic scenes as breaking a horse, foaling, mating, and, most splendidly, running the races themselves...Such passages are tremendous, but at other times, Morgan seems to be taken over by some grandiose afflatus, her prose swelling to blot out the story itself...Aside from such passages and certain later developments, which are more symbolically potent than completely believable, the novel is a great accomplishment.
RaveThe Minneapolis Star Tribune[Hamilton's] penetration into the hearts of her characters is as profound, perhaps more so, than ever before ... This is a very fine novel: Its people, their individual predicaments and their relationships with one another and with the land stay with the reader long after that last page has been turned.
PositiveThe Barnes & Noble ReviewRogan works at her mordant theme through black comedy, in which those in authority, whether in business, politics, or religion, are shown to be maestros of euphemism, waffle, and doubletalk: Fighting is 'human kinetics,' senseless death becomes a 'magnificent contribution,' and for-profit prisons and the exploitation of inmates’ labor are 'market-based solutions.' All this talk, for all its steely bathos, is perhaps this acerbic novel’s most realistic ingredient of all.
RaveThe Chicago TribuneThe story is told from four points of view — Simon's, Lily's, Giles' and, briefly, Paul's. Dunmore delves into their characters, revealing latent qualities emerging to meet a fraught situation; at the same time, however, she brilliantly fulfills the requirements of a spy novel, building suspense and an air of menace ... Exposure is one of those books that you read with your heart in your mouth, your mind fully engaged, and with a sense of desolation as you note the dwindling number of pages left before it comes to an end.
MixedThe Barnes & Noble ReviewMukherjee has a great gift for summoning character, milieu, and mood: the meanness and claustrophobia of Ritwik’s India; his feeling of estrangement at Oxford; the greasy desperation of back-street London; the punishing, dead-end existence of casual laborers; the desolation that reigns in Mrs Cameron’s decaying house, which, little by little, turns to a cautious intimacy between the young man and the decrepit old woman; and the obscene luxury and privilege of a grand Park Lane hotel. Each scene from Litwik’s life is rich and absorbing, as are those from Mrs Gilby’s life in India, and yet the whole thing doesn’t really cohere. There is so much of so many good (bad) things, that they defy a governing mold.
RaveThe Chicago Tribune...a well-researched, wonderfully lucid, pleasingly written treatment of a most extraordinary woman...What makes this biography such a rewarding work is the poise and easy confidence with which Harman summons character and creative imagination, not only Charlotte's, but her sisters' too, showing, most crucially, how Charlotte's reading of their work unleashed a bold, hitherto absent 'emotional force' in her own writing.
PanNewsdayThis scene — it being the age of miracles — is actually and finally funny. But it has taken well over 300 limping pages to get here. Some fast-paced, relatively engaging action provides a conclusion, but it is small recompense for having slogged through so many, many pages of pro forma humor, rackety plot and inane chitchat.
PanThe Washington PostAlas, the only sections with any vigor or narrative substance are those concerning Hendricks’s war and his one true, though broken, romance. The rest of the novel is an unmeshed assemblage of case histories, accounts of Hendricks’s psychiatric practice, expositions of his theories: his own and those of Dr. Pereira.
RaveThe Barnes & Noble ReviewFor a novel that has no plot to speak of and simply ends rather than finishing up, Suzanne Berne’s The Dogs of Littlefield is wonderfully entertaining and is, in fact, the funniest (new) book I have read in some time.
RaveBarnes & Noble Review...puts into words that which defies words, capturing the powerful, if ineffable emotional signals that constitute family relations, and carries them onto the page with uncanny precision and with a current of understated humor that is like a buoyant background melody.