RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewWhy Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? is a memoir as unconventional and winning as the rollicking bildungsroman Winterson assembled from the less malignant aspects of her eccentric Pentecostal upbringing, a novel that instantly established her distinctive voice. This new book wrings humor from adversity, as did the fictionalized version of Winterson’s youth, but the ghastly childhood transfigured there is not the same as the one vivisected here in search of truth and its promise of setting the cleareyed free ... It’s a testament to Winterson’s innate generosity, as well as her talent, that she can showcase the outsize humor her mother’s equally capacious craziness provides even as she reveals the cruelties Mrs. Winterson imposed on her in the name of rearing a God-fearing Christian.
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewA sure-footed biographer, Marshall admits to devoting disproportionate attention to a subject that was catalytic to Fuller’s emotional as well as intellectual development, the \'circle of young ‘lovers’ who were drawn to the flame of her intelligence\' and were invariably left blistered, eager for gentler company. No one likes a conceited genius, and Marshall seems to know that she can’t hold her readers for long without countering the arrogance Fuller’s accomplishments inspired. How better to summon sympathy than to highlight the romantic disappointments that attended the bluestocking’s homeliness and lack of social grace?
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewUnderlying her entire narrative is a question she can’t bring herself to ask out loud: Whom does her husband love best, his first or second wife? Clues abound. As do red herrings ... rtists and muses who suffered love affairs splintered by infidelity are summoned to bear witness to the narrator’s obsession: Auguste Rodin and his mistress Camille Claudel; Vaclav Havel and his wife, Olga Splichalova; Simone de Beauvoir and Nelson Algren (after whom she has named her two cats). Pertinent works of literature are revisited in the hopes they may cast light on the narrator’s position ... Sisters moves quickly, and the less practiced reader may be slower to discern a narrative trajectory that leans on allusions to other works. But sooner or later the question dawns: For whom are clues gathered — the narrator, or the reader?
PositiveThe New York Times Sunday Book ReviewA novel of ideas disguised as a ghost story, voluptuously atmospheric, Pure exerts a sensual hold over the reader … Now a subterranean wall separating the necropolis from the city of the living has collapsed, and an effluvium of putrefaction is penetrating the dwellings around the cemetery, extinguishing candles, tainting food and even precipitating ‘moral disturbances, particularly among the young.’ For the author’s purposes, cleaning up the mess is a metaphor grand enough to accommodate an existential battle between dark and light, outmoded and enlightened, decay and purity … Miller’s gift for characterization and ability to summon up a world that convinces absolutely, even though it never was.
PositiveThe New York TimesThe year is 1828, and Manon begins her account with a simple, chilling declaration: ‘It never ends.’ Everything in her life oppresses her … Manon tells the story of her marriage, forcing us to view it from her own perspective. We assume that she deliberately reveals her husband in a negative light, and so we try to take his actions at face value, preserving objectivity. He seems no better – and not much worse – than most men of his time and place and station … Manon intends for us to hate him, but as the story unfolds we find her to be the character whose actions are more deviously cruel … What exactly is the nature of the property that gives this novel its title? Just as Manon was owned by her husband, unable to escape his control or her material dependence, so is Sarah the property of a mistress determined not to let her go.
PositiveThe New York Times Book RevewAs his previous three novels (The Mercury Visions of Louis Daguerre, The Beautiful Miscellaneous and Bright and Distant Shores) demonstrate, he can craft an elegant page-turner that carries its erudition effortlessly on an energetic plot. His narratives may be complex, but that quality only enhances their suspense...The Last Painting of Sara de Vos may begin as a mystery about a crime, but by the end the reader sees far beneath that surface: All along it was a mystery of the heart.