RaveThe Historical Novel SocietyThe medieval monastic ideal of ora et labora (prayer and work) makes for a surprisingly compelling and suspenseful adventure in the hands of Donoghue, who excels at creating characters who make the best of bad situations, finding transcendence in the smallest details of daily life ... In fact, this short novel is really a parable about the narcissism of the religious fanatic, and the contrasting endurance of human communities. The three monks represent the conflicting religious imperatives of faith versus works in the most vivid way possible, although there’s no doubt which side we’re meant to sympathize with more. The austere beauties of Skellig Michael make the island itself a fourth character, earning this book a place among classics of ecological fiction.
MixedHistorical Novel SocietyThis warm hug of a novel depicts the power of community in the face of war and deprivation ... Ryan creates four intriguing protagonists, although (as in her first novel) there’s not much to differentiate the voices of each woman. Despite their diverse personalities, they all have similar 21st-century voices, sounding more like contemporary self-help books than like actual 1940s British women. Their various heartaches and dilemmas intersect in ways that seem at times to be driven more by plot needs than by actual character motivation, but a compelling portrait of female community emerges if one can overlook the convenient rom-com plot twists. There are loads of recipes and well-researched details about home food production, which balance out the lack of characterization and the author’s tendency to tell rather than show, but the picture of small-town life she creates is an absorbing, comfortable read.
RaveHistorical Novel Society\"[A] stunning literary novel by the award-winning author of The Tiger’s Wife ... the beauty of this novel is its lyrical descriptions of the harsh Arizona landscape and the sharp, sarcastic voice of Nora, a flawed but unforgettable character who vividly evokes a life lived suspended between the unrelenting daily demands of survival and the softer memories of lost love.\
PositiveHistorical Novel SocietyHer up-and-down cycles of elation and depression, however, soon weary the reader, because Alma’s reactions are so oppressively self-centered, giving Sharratt few chances to bring to life any of the artistic geniuses with whom Alma interacts ... For fans of the setting, however, Sharratt’s considerable skill with descriptions of gorgeous Alpine countryside and the equally sumptuous social and musical soirées may be enough.