PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewKukafka moves nimbly among those multiple strands ... Kukafka aims to undo some of these conventions, including the preoccupation with dead women, in order to explore more ambiguous and ambitious terrain. This novel is defiantly populated with living women; it ruminates on trauma, the criminal justice system and guilt. The narrative tension that animates Girl in Snow is again present, but this time it has a different source. There is no question of who did what, or even why. Instead, it is the inevitability of Ansel’s execution and the moral abyss of capital punishment that floods the novel with dread ... In this way, the novel pushes the reader to think about both the uses and the limitations of empathy in fiction. The reader never fully identifies with Ansel, but that seems precisely the point: We don’t need to identify with him in order to understand that his execution is a horror and an outrage ... is in part, and often powerfully, a novel about these women. But it is also true that Ansel remains at the heart of the novel, functioning as the story’s conceptual negative space ... And as much as the novel may wish to dismantle the mythos of the serial killer, in many ways, the Ansel who emerges — particularly in the sections centered on the various women — reinforces it ... nuanced, ambitious and compelling. Perversely, some of the novel’s propulsive power comes from the very conventions it fails to abandon. The seduction of the serial killer narrative is difficult to shake, for reader and author alike. We keep watching, and we keep turning the pages. In our fascination, we’re all implicated.
PositiveThe New York Times Book Review... polemical in nature, a notoriously difficult form that indicates the scope of her ambition ... At times the novel’s concerns can feel forced into the narrative and the dialogue, resulting in a flatness that makes both Hamya’s fiction and its message less convincing than they would be otherwise ... But in its finer moments, Three Rooms made me think of the 1979 Japanese novel Territory of Light, by Yuko Tsushima, recently translated into English by Geraldine Harcourt. Also about women in the workplace, it too centers on the question of real estate, the rooms we have access to and the rooms we occupy. It’s a scathing critique of Japanese society, achieved through quiet and relentlessly exact observation, and Hamya’s novel is most successful when it operates in this same mode ... compresses the noise of contemporary life into a record of recent events: Grenfell Tower, Boris Johnson, Brexit. But personal and everyday occurrences take up equal space in the narrator’s consciousness, and are precisely and beautifully rendered ... invokes the reality of living in a world where a reasonable demand is resolutely categorized as unreasonable.
PositiveNew York Times Book ReviewAn invigorating work, deadly precise in its skewering of people, places and things. It’s a novel about social media and its insidious creep into our lives, the way it has reconfigured our behavior, relationships and — perhaps most critically, for the ambitions of this book — the way we think about and relate to ourselves ... also the work of a critic who has made a career of studying a much older piece of technology: the book, and in particular, the novel. Her debut is packed with references to contemporary writers, from Ben Lerner to Jenny Offill ... Oyler posits books as products of their time — dated, in the way of Instagram posts and tweets, down to the year, or even month. Books are not necessarily elevated above social media, but they are also not eradicated by it ... this cynicism blunts her ability to navigate the world, and her own emotions, with catastrophic results ... That sense of entrapment — of not knowing how to relate to the world — is central to the novel. Oyler is such a funny writer that it can be easy to overlook the fact that the underlying tone of her book is extreme disquiet. Irony provides no protection from unease, but is itself a source of it.
Mieko Kawakami, trans. by Sam Bett and David Boyd
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewLike Murakami—who has enthusiastically endorsed her work—she too has a loose and colloquial style. But unlike her forebear, Kawakami writes with a bracing lack of sentimentality, particularly when describing the lives of women ... Kawakami writes with unsettling precision about the body — its discomforts, its appetites, its smells and secretions. And she is especially good at capturing its longings, those in this novel being at once obsessive and inchoate, and in one way or another about transformation ... Kawakami’s prose is supple and casual, unbothered with the kinds of sentences routinely described as \'luminous.\' But into these stretches of plain speech she regularly drops phrases that made me giddy with pleasure ... skillful translation.
Han Kang, Trans. by Deborah Smith
PositiveThe New York Times Book Review\"Although [Han Kang\'s] new novel, The White Book, occupies a somewhat quieter register [than her previous work], it too is formally daring, emotionally devastating and deeply political. Its relative smallness of scale — a scant 157 pages, cut to fit in the palm of the hand — is deceptive, itself the mark of a supremely confident writer ... What follows is a text shot through with \'vertiginous thrill\' ... In this subtle and searching novel, Kang, through Smith, proposes a model of genuine empathy, one that insists on the power of shared experience but is not predicated on the erasure of difference.\
PositiveThe New York Times Book Review...slim and audacious ... Written with bristling intelligence, Crudo borrows liberally from Acker, a formal tribute to a master of appropriation ... Crudo revolves around a less extreme but equally crucial disjunction: between the ordinary life of Olivia Laing in 2017 and the extraordinary life of Kathy Acker in the second half of the last century ... As a result, the novel offers an altogether smoother ride than Acker’s fiction, both in its subject matter and its prose style ... It’s fair to say that the world of Crudo is somewhat cozier than the ’70s Downtown associated with Acker. At moments, the novel pokes deadpan fun at that divide.
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewOsborne is a startlingly good observer of privilege, noting the rites and rituals of the upper classes with unerring precision and an undercurrent of malice ... Osborne takes his time baiting and setting his trap, and one of the pleasures of the novel is its unpredictability ... The novel takes on the tone of an existential noir, evoking writers like Jean-Patrick Manchette and Georges Simenon. Yet even as the narrative accelerates, the novel retains its sense of languor and style ... Beautiful Animals is unlikely to radically alter your understanding of the refugee crisis. But it may make you question the nature of your engagement with that issue and the world beyond ... Like The Great Gatsby, Beautiful Animals concludes with a rowboat on the sea and an image of light in the distance. But Osborne crafts a rebuttal of the green light that symbolizes Gatsby’s dream: 'They were like shooting stars, flaring up for a brilliant moment, lighting up the sky even for a few lingering seconds, then disappearing forever.' A world without the organizing principle of an ideal is a harder, bleaker one to inhabit. It’s a world without promises, and Osborne is one of its most dedicated chroniclers.
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewAlthough charged throughout with high emotion, the novel is rarely sentimental. Porter resists the static register of the maudlin, creating instead a fabric of constant shifts and calibrations in voice, moving from rage to madness to profanity and humor. He has an excellent ear for the flexibility of language and tone, juxtaposing colloquialisms against poetic images and metaphors. The result is a book that has the living, breathing quality of the title’s 'thing with feathers.'”