PositiveThe New York Times Book Review... amusing and elegantly written ... It is this fascination that Sisman has made the tenet of his book: Peters’s antic mayhem jibed with Trevor-Roper’s own taste for anti-establishment mischief. How could he not be somewhat enchanted with this sendup of the entire British academic and social system?
MixedThe New York Times Book ReviewFlaubert stated that he wanted to write the moral history of his generation, to excavate passions that he declared were, despite the romantic pretenses of French society, \'inactive.\' Barnes has set out to do much the same. The Only Story is just as pessimistic, with about the same satirical temperature and measuring the same ironic distance from what at first seems to be a love story that might generate some erotic heat. But In the Mood for Love this is not ... Barnes has a skillful command of tone and its moral implications, when he chooses to exert it ... Paul insists, \'first love fixes a life forever.\' Barnes is aware of this, but to relate in some way the dark sides of the cultural revolution of the ’60s and that of his coming-of-age story he would have had to let his characters emerge a little more from Paul’s perspective and the look-at-me-in-the-dock exegesis of his poor treatment of a woman he never really understands. Here and there, all the same, Barnes’s rapier wit flashes and glitters. At one point in his decline, Paul gets \'punitively drunk to the point of sudden rationality.\' What a delicious phrase that is, and how much more Paul might have delivered on it.
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewHughes, equally well known in Britain for her popular historical documentaries, gives us an even heftier opus written with a classicist’s linguistic precision ... Hughes’s book begins with the prehistoric substrata, delving with curiously gripping detail into layers of settlement archaeologists have only recently unearthed ... And so, right from the start, we are confronted with a vastly larger sense of time than that in which the city is usually conceived. Moreover, Hughes also establishes just how deep the Greek roots of the settlement called Byzantion went, and how heterogenous the Hellenic frontier town of the seventh century B.C. probably was. She has a fine feel for the complexities and shadings of that distant past ... Hughes argues that in this period — just before the Battle of Manzikert in 1071 heralded the arrival of a new enemy, the Turks — the two religions and empires [Christian empire and the caliphate] had found a way of coexisting.
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewBased in Istanbul, Ackerman is familiar with the formidably volatile and increasingly dangerous southern border zones with Syria. Much of this slender novel is set in the once pleasant city of Gaziantep — or Antep — whose texture he renders with economical accuracy and with gathering unease. It’s a physical landscape that rarely appears in novels, and Ackerman has learned it well — a twilight world of desolate roads, refugee tents, hordes of scavenging boys, desperados and lethal con men ... Ackerman’s novel is unusual for a young writer in that it improves as it moves along rather than the reverse. The first third is heavily weighted by flashbacks relating Haris’s life in Michigan with his sister and his time in Iraq dominated by his relationship with another soldier. To my mind, these chop the narrative and restrain its momentum. There are also repeated descriptions and phrases that could have been ironed out more elegantly. Things improve, however, in the last half, as Ackerman allows his tale to unfold more directly and with more uncluttered velocity ... Dark at the Crossing is unusual in that few of its characters are Western — a bold move in a culture obsessed with 'appropriation.' Whether this makes them convincing to an Arab ear is hard to say, but Ackerman’s decision is clearly motivated by empathy and a desire not to tell his story through characters thinking and speaking his own language. I commend him for that; he has created people who are not the equivalents of the locally exotic subjects in your average NPR story, and he has used them to populate a fascinating and topical novel.