PositiveThe Times (UK)[A] marvellous, transporting cultural history ... [a] heady, evocative, wandering book.
Jean Moorcroft Wilson
RaveThe Times UKIn her diligent and insightful biography of Graves, Jean Moorcroft Wilson teases the truth from Graves’s exaggerations, mis-rememberings and downright fibs. Moorcroft Wilson, who has written the lives of Sassoon and Edward Thomas, is an even-handed biographer. She is by turns compassionate and caustic. She is clear-sighted when cutting though Graves’s \'condescending and disingenuous\' attitude to his father’s poetry.
MixedThe Times (UK)\"It is a sprightly book. Preston gives us not just the old favourites — Shelley’s To a Skylark, John Clare’s Nightingale... but also the hatchling nature writers: Helen Macdonald’s memoir H is for Hawk, Max Porter’s novella Grief Is the Thing With Feathers ... Preston captures his birds beautifully ... Several times seeing a bird is like a dream... This becomes slightly maddening. The most vivid nature writers see something rare and transformative and make it real for those who weren’t there. Preston’s birds are diminished by wishy-washy vagueness ... It’s a shame because there is so much here to set the heart soaring. Often it is the simplest descriptions that hold your imagination.\
MixedThe Times (UK)Harvey writes with a beautiful ease. Her passages of nature writing, describing this strange, left-behind landscape, are evocative. She wraps you in the language of ritual and liturgy: albs, amices, shriving bells ... However, it’s a book that could do with a bit more carnival. It is lyrical and literary, but, like a Lenten fast, it is thin on fun, incident and cheer ... promises tempests and blows a gentle breeze.
PositiveThe Times (UK)\"Groskop has a knack of giving you just enough biography of the author, just enough tantalising kiss-and-tell detail from the works. You find yourself thinking, of all those books that you’ve labelled too difficult, too gloomy, too long, too Russian ... This book is a delightful primer and companion to all the authors you are ashamed to admit you haven’t read during after-dinner games of Humiliation ... [Groskop\'s] enthusiasm (obsession) carries you along.\
Andrew Michael Hurley
PositiveThe TimesHurley excels at claustrophobically small communities. The landscape of the Endlands is vast—moors to the horizon, rivers that roil and flood — but its inhabitants are as penned as the dogs in their kennels. John has tried to leave, but the land—the Devil?—calls him back. Hurley is a superb storyteller. He leads you up on to the moors, into the eye of a snowstorm, dropping little clues, sinister hints at devilment and demonic possession. Then he changes course, scuffs over the prints in the snow, springs new villainies on you, abandons you overnight in the hills. The moment you feel secure in your skepticism—there’s no such thing as devils—Hurley sows a seed of doubt ... At times the book bags and slows. It has all the fear and shivers of an MR James tale, but not the tautness. A slight shear—the chit-chat of the farmers’ wives drags—would make the difference.
PositiveThe Times (UK)\"The reader ought really to have a working knowledge of De Profundis, Easter 1916, and Ulysses. This is not Dubliners for dummies ... This is a book about all manner of things. About being an Irishman in an Englishman’s writing world, about ardour in old age, about measuring a man by his gaze, about freedom and spirit-crushing incarceration, about homosexuality, tolerance, reputation, class, duty and loyalty. It is about the sins of the fathers — debt, self-delusion, drunkenness — and the legacy left to their sons ... It is not a mad book, certainly not a bad book, but it is an odd book ... Tóibín’s portraits are often moving, always interesting and made me tearful as I listened to my father and brother planning a boys’ trip to, as it happens, Dublin. But it is a demanding book. And it is odd.\
PositiveThe TimesGough, who wrote the ending to the online game \'Minecraft,\' favors short sentences. Very short. Almost. Too. Short. His style is Tense . . . Real . . . Vivid. Random italics multiply. Questions . . . hang? My God, you think, it can’t go on like this. It goes on. When Colt orders a pizza, he describes its texture as: \'Weird. Gluey.\' So is the plot ... Nevertheless, and despite being several thousand lines of computer code out of my depth, I found Connect propulsively paced and ingeniously twisting. Gough has written a hyperactive, adrenaline-junkie dystopian thriller that deserves to be made into a belter of a film franchise.
RaveThe Times (UK)A Life of My Own is an antidote to the pappy, pop motivation of Sheryl Sandberg and Arianna Huffington, with their Lean In and Thrive manifestos ... [Tomalin] should be a heroine to modern snowflakes who melt at the first setback. Tomalin is like a glacier, unstoppable, inexorable, gathering grit and resolve as she goes ... The book is poised and beautifully paced. She reels you in and casts you out. She is intimate and confiding, distrustful and reclusive. She is like a new friend who spills secrets, pours out her heart, then shuts up like a clamshell when you ask for more.
PositiveThe Times UKThe mind does funny things, argues Thomson in Unthinkable. Odd things. Unnerving things. In this fluent, eye-opening book she explores what happens when the mind misbehaves: distance is distorted, memory plays tricks, people hear in colour and see in music. Thomsons’s style is wonderfully clear. She never talks down to the layman. If there is academic jargon, she carefully explains it, drawing useful analogies. She is the science teacher you wish you’d had at school.
RaveThe TimesPoirier’s approach is cinematic ... There is incident and sexual intrigue on every page. Poirier spins several plates of the story at once ... Poirier moves easily between Paris, London and New York. She deftly assembles her characters in Brooklyn and Bloomsbury ... At times I did lose track of the dizzy sexual ronde and its various ménages à trois, quatre, cinq ... Poirier gives a useful cast of characters at the front of the book (I do like a crib), also a chronology and an annotated map of who lived, loved and danced where ... One small complaint: we never really get to the bottom of the significance of the Left Bank. We take it for granted that Rive Gauche stands for cool, alternative, bohemian. But why there and not the Right Bank, or Montparnasse? The introduction needs a beginners-start-here explanation of what combination of geographic, economic, social, historic, political and architectural circumstances made the Left Bank such a crucible of experimentation. Other than that, Poirier’s hugely enjoyable, quick-witted and richly anecdotal book is magnifique.
RaveThe Times (UK)\"There is a creeping claustrophobia to this collection. With a few exceptions, events take place in narrow confines: a rented attic flat in Belfast, a doer-upper in Brooklyn, a desert island, neighbouring suburban back gardens. Shriver’s chamber pieces are thrillingly tightly written. Walls press in ... Shriver writes a bimonthly column in The Spectator and there is a topical, satirical sharpness to these modern moral (and immoral) stories ... All Shriver’s stories are satisfying. I exhaled a little triumphant \'Ha!\' at the end of each one. She gives you not the ending you wanted or expected, not necessarily a happily-ever-after, but a feeling of rightness, resolution and unjust deserts. Shriver is brilliant at the \'twitch upon the thread\' that brings the wandering reader back with a hook through the cheek.\