RaveThe Boston Globe... spellbinding ... Fans have eagerly waited 16 years for Clarke’s follow-up. News of a new book finally broke last September and the hype rocketed to literary heights...Could Piranesi match it? I’m delighted to say it has, with Clarke’s singular wit and imagination still intact in a far more compressed yet still captivating tale you’ll want to delve into again right after you read its sublime last sentence ... Much of the pleasure of reading Piranesi derives from Piranesi himself, the charming if rather naive waif who narrates the novel via journal entries under an invented event-based calendar ... The story takes all manner of bizarre twists and thrilling turns from there — neo-pagan academics, a Flood, and gunfire all make an appearance — but I wouldn’t want to spoil the fun. Admirers of Jonathan Strange will surely enjoy Clarke’s continued penchant for vivid world building where something supernatural could appear around any corner. However, it’s the non-magical moments that linger the longest in Piranesi.
Jonas Hassen Khemiri, trans by Alice Menzies
MixedThe Arts Fuse... disappointing ... This conceit begins to fray over the course of the narrative’s 10 days ... The father has a much better relationship with the daughter, though he — and unfortunately Khemiri — pay her afflictions scant attention ... Khemiri does little here to put his own spin on the usual showdown of repression versus dreams of liberation ... It’s a relationship built on neglect and resentment, and just too familiar to be compelling ... Choosing to focus on the father/son relationship over father/daughter is the key to the novel’s shortcomings. The leading men lack nuanced personalities, and their constant bickering quickly grows tiring. Whatever foreboding their verbal tussles generate fizzles out once the anticlimactic confrontation over the father clause is reached. The daughter’s perspective is relegated to ringside status; surprisingly, she is never given a one-on-one confab with her father. Why not set up a scene in which she might break free of her father’s grip and shatter his pride? Unfortunately, Khemiri chooses distractions instead: extended experimental sections in which the point of view changes to that of a ghost and then a four-year-old child. Both are jarring detours from the novel’s realism and they contribute little to the story, neither insight nor pathos ... Still, while the novel suffers from staleness, Khemiri’s playful style (and no doubt his playwriting background) keeps the acrimonious, though wordy, confrontations moving along. He deftly crafts intimate scenes in which short, staccato-like sentences are used to describe details and movements. In particular, the book’s depictions of parenting are chaotic and hilarious ... These amusing asides keep The Family Clause from becoming a slog. Khemiri is clearly a skilled writer. He avoids sentimentality and doesn’t shy away from excavating the deep flaws and nagging wounds of his bedeviled characters. But this family is fractured according to formula: a dull plot and stagnant ending only compound the feeling that we are dealing with the generic conflicts of a clan with no name.
RaveThe ArtsFuseRefreshingly, it’s a coming-of-age fable, far more concerned with probing how the shocking discovery alters the three young witnesses, and is all the richer for it ... the latest novel from Margot Livesey, a prolific writer with a keen eye for the interiority of her characters, a skill that enriches her novels with a rare intimacy and immediacy. In lesser hands, this volume would devolve into another tired tale of adolescence featuring your typical lovelorn teens figuring out who they want to become when they grow up. These tropes make an appearance, but Livesey deftly tweaks them to reflect how a shared traumatic experience ripples into the lives of the three protagonists — each a distinct and beautifully rendered character ... This tragicomic misunderstanding is the means that Livesey uses, brilliantly, to turn the narrative from a crime saga into a perceptive examination of family life ... By focusing on the hidden lives of her characters as they grapple with these secrets, Livesey tenderly evokes childhood’s end and the realization that growing up will overwhelm you with more questions than answers ... Some readers may, like Matthew, be unsatisfied with how Livesey chooses an unconventional, anticlimactic reveal of who attacked Karel in the field ... unconventional and captivating.