RaveThe Sunday Times (UK)... a warm-hearted book: several degrees warmer, in fact, than the work of Sally Rooney, to which it has already been compared ... intimate, chatty, immensely readable. There’s an original and distinctive voice here, and a strong sense of character and place ... a loosely plotted book in which events arise from character rather than from any imposed structure — all the more impressive, therefore, that it’s such a pacey read. Character is Nealon’s great strength. Uncle Billy, with his cluttered caravan and his barely concealed loneliness, is a wonderful creation; but it’s Debbie, so convincingly rendered as a volatile mixture of vulnerability and determination, who most fully engages ... a novel about how it feels to be young, uncertain and troubled; it conjures this condition with honesty and precise observational skill. Nealon has a nice ear for the apposite simile ... Some parts of the book feel a bit undercooked. Xanthe, for example, veers towards caricature at points, and certain narrative threads aren’t fully tied up. Yet this is excusable in a debut novel, especially in one that contains so many riches. Snowflake is an auspicious beginning.
RaveIrish Independent (IRE)The Magician restores or completes our understanding of a great gay writer who could speak about his sexuality only indirectly: as symbol, as coded theme ... Line by line, Tóibín’s prose is simple. He is interested in creating, by the remorselessly patient accumulation of small actions, a fully rounded portrait ... Tóibín moves swiftly. Where Mann was essayistic, Tóibín prefers action—and in his novels, thinking, too, always feels like action ... The Magician stands as one of the richest and most perceptive novels ever written about the inner life of an artist. Colm Tóibín has already written several truly extraordinary novels. The Magician may be the very best of them.
MixedThe Irish Independent (IRE)... if the emotional temperature of Conversations with Friends and Normal People was medium-cool, in Beautiful World, Where Are You it tracks closer to zero, at least for the first three quarters of the book. (In the last quarter, things warm up emotionally and the book sort of collapses.) The novel alternates between chapters composed in a chilly third-person objective mode and chapter-length emails ... The third-person chapters subject the characters’ fortunes to a deadpan gaze. The emails—by far the best bits of the book—allow Alice and Eileen to talk about ideas ... the low-temperature prose and the resolutely limited point of view are designed to frustrate the sort of easy identification with character that the earlier novels invited ... It’s probably cavilling to point out that the novel states its Big Themes (climate change, civilisational collapse, inequality, the possibility of religious belief) but doesn’t really dramatise them ... There is a fascinating undercurrent of hostility towards the reader. This novel wants both to satisfy and to alienate its audience: both to scare off the plain folk who wept over Connell and Marianne and to create equally vivid characters in the frame of an equally moving love story ... What’s good about this novel? Many things. Alice and Eileen are convincingly real. Rooney writes about sex superbly well. The book is full of interesting ideas. Its various unreconciled elements (the soapy ending; the fact that Felix and Simon are wish-fulfilment figures rather than believable characters), jostle fascinatingly alongside the richness of its ideas, the stray pleasures of its prose and the complexities of its ambition. The faults of gifted writers are often more instructive than the competencies of bad ones. Accordingly, Beautiful World, Where Are You is not just worth reading. It’s worth thinking about.
RaveThe Guardian (UK)It’s a brilliant comic novel about the ways in which the internet muddles all of our interior rivers while at the same time polluting the seas of the outer world, and about how these processes might be one and the same thing ... the descriptive prose is casually great ... a fascinating work of cultural analysis. Every sentence tells ... a prismatically intelligent work of art.
RaveThe Irish Independent (IRE)These are romantic stories, and Barry is a romantic writer. I mean romantic in the old-fashioned literary sense: mood-haunted, place-haunted, devoted to the themes of love and loss and self-creation ... Romanticism has its risks, of course. Romantic characters risk igniting themselves in the fires of a foolish passion. And the romantic writer risks collapsing into sentimentality, or into the mere performance of emotion. Barry is well aware of this. He knows that if you get romanticism wrong, your story ends up defaulting into histrionics, or banality. But he also knows that when you get romanticism right, it sets off a great depth-charge of emotion in the reader. What makes Barry such an extraordinary writer is how often, and how superbly, he gets romanticism right ... He gets it right particularly in his short stories ... it’s in his short stories that Barry seems most fully and brilliantly himself ... his third collection, is made up of 11 stories, and by my count, six of them are unimprovable masterpieces. Four of the others are merely (merely!) very, very good — better than the average run of short stories by some considerable distance ... a collection otherwise so good — so rich and so flawlessly crafted — that its best stories feel instantly canonical, as if we’ve already been reading them for years ... The densely woven prose summons up Roethke’s own spiky rhythms; it also echoes one of Barry’s great inspirers, Saul Bellow ... The other stories, with their casts of ghost-struck lonely men and not-quite-innocent young women, and with their gorgeous evocations of landscapes and interiors, are comparably gripping and rich. Following his courageous path, Kevin Barry remains the great romantic of contemporary Irish fiction. Like all of the most interesting artists, he gets better with every risk he takes. The courage may be his. But the rewards are all ours.
RaveThe New YorkerDeath in Her Hands, Ottessa Moshfegh’s intricate and unsettling new novel, appears at first to occupy familiar territory ... Vesta’s speculations are every bit as vivid as Eileen’s ... Death in Her Hands is another tricksy novel. But it makes no real secret of its tricksiness—which is in itself grounds for mistrust. Vesta’s unreliability is flagged so thoroughly in the early pages that you begin to suspect that Moshfegh is playing some kind of higher-order game with narrative tension ... But creating this sort of narrative tension isn’t quite what Moshfegh is up to—or, rather, it’s only a fraction of what she\'s up to. The unreliable narrator, as a technique, appeals to novelists who are interested in the gaps (tragic, comic) that yawn between how we conceive of ourselves and how the world perceives us to be. Moshfegh has toyed with this technique in much of her work ... Moshfegh knows that when human company is swept away, a baroque inner life can often flourish, and Vesta’s increasingly monstrous inner life grows to occlude her view of the world ... it’s a haunting meditation on the nature and meaning of art ... Like a surgeon, or a serial killer, Moshfegh flenses her characters, and her readers, until all that’s left is a void. It’s the amused contemplation of that void that gives rise to the dark exhilaration of her work—its wayward beauty, its comedy, and its horror.