PositiveThe Scotsman (UK)This is no \'what I did on my summer holidays\' book – although there are plenty of humorous mishaps along the way. Barton has clearly dedicated her life to working language like it is clay ... demonstrates Barton’s belief that to understand another language – to really, truly, get it – she had to immerse herself within it, building up a library of sensual associations to draw on. Every adventure she has – culinary, sexual, or emotional – adds to the depth of her vocabulary ... The book is testament to the thoughtfulness that goes into translation: the weight of choosing one phrasing over another. At times, these dilemmas verge on neurotic, spiralling off anxiously...But for the most part Fifty Sounds is a delightful, granular account of communicating across languages, as Barton gradually becomes able to consider the world not in a new light, but with new words.
RaveThe Scotsman (UK)... the most fun novel I’ve read this year ... Told at the breathless pace of gossip, full of delicious details as though shared over a bottle of wine with a best friend au fait with both high and low culture ... As things spiral out of control, the reader starts to wonder who, exactly, is holding the reins. I kept reading late into the night to find out, enjoying every moment.
PositiveThe Scotsman (UK)While this feels like the best written of Rooney’s novels, firmly establishing the talent behind her precipitous rise to fame, there are weaknesses. We never quite get to the heart of Felix, the love interest of Alice. Alice and Eileen, good, bookish girls both, can be difficult to distinguish ... Their exchanges, filled with theoretical digression (entertaining but implausible – who has the energy to send life updates in the form of mini dissertations?), are a way for the politically conscious Rooney to alternately challenge and defend writing books about relationships ... I’m hoping that, for the next book, Rooney writes further out of her comfort zone. She is skilled in capturing romantic dialogue and tension, but it’s starting to feel all a bit familiar ... One of the most intriguing themes in this book wasn’t the will-they-won’t-they but moments where millennials reckon with religious culture ... I’d love to see Rooney expand on this theme, rich for introspection and interrogation. After all, what relationships and religion have in common is loyalty, tests of faith, love, submission, doubt, and belief in something bigger than the solitary unit of the self. She’s certainly got the chops to do it.
RaveThe SkinnyOften, the authorial notes are more satisfying than the fiction, but they come together to explore overlapping themes. What transpires is a rich and absorbing text full of allusion to domestic Indian politics, Marxism and feminism. It’s equally a fascinating account of a writer’s process, and a successful reclamation of her own authorial control. If what we write is of course informed by what we know, Exquisite Cadavers asks the old question of why books written by women are dismissed as memoir so often, but does so in a remarkably fresh way. Kandasamy’s work becomes more bold and exciting with each new book.
RaveThe SkinnyA lot of research backs the book, with around a third of the page count going to a bibliography and notes, often enjoyable reading in their own right. There’s clearly an academic mind at work here, but for all its sourcing and contextualising, the book rarely feels bogged down by it, and it’s a warm and engaging read. It makes a refreshing counterpart to quite a few books which fall into the \'gaijin gets into mishaps\' model – this author isn’t here to tell us about culture shock clichés like coin locker hotel pods, for example ... Anyone with an interest in Japan will benefit from [Sherman\'s] inquisitive mind at work in this book.