PositiveThe Observer (UK)Ferrante is a superb analyst of the ways in which families, despite their best intentions, distort children’s lives or propel them in unwished-for directions ... Like a side-shoot that has taken on a life of its own, The Lying Life of Adults shares preoccupations with Ferrante’s Neapolitan quartet, though the focus here is two generations down the line ... Through the lies and truths of this compelling novel, Ferrante threads one of her talismanic objects, not a doll this time, but a mysterious glittering bracelet that, as in a fairytale, passes from hand to desirable hand. Who is the fairest of us all may not be the right question for women to ask, or anyone to judge.
RaveThe Guardian (UK)...a capacious family story that...brings to vivid life some of the worst, and perhaps also finest, moments of the 20th century ... Freeman is a determined and eloquent detective. She sifts records, has translations of documents done and travels often with her father to the sites of ancestral life. Above all, she is a splendid creator of character. As she roots around in a past that moves from persecution and the extreme poverty of a Jewish family in the southwestern corner of Poland, to interwar immigrant life in the then unglamorous Marais district of Paris, to the turbulence and death of the war years and beyond, the members of her great and grandparental family take on memorable individuality. What is fascinating to note is that it is some of the forebears she likes least who emerge as distinct heroes ... Her book, written in the shadow of Trump and Brexit, as well as an ungovernable alt-right virtual sphere, underlines the repetitive and irrational nature of an antisemitic blight, often cynically spread by exploitative leaders. The tropes of prejudice slide over into the treatment of immigrants, refugees and foreigners. Freeman underlines that we need, once more, urgently to learn the lessons of this tragic history ... That said, it is the particularities of individual trajectories, the way luck and fate deal so singularly with her family, that make Freeman’s story so gripping ... the story Freeman tells is above all a tribute to human bravery and endurance against the odds. Death may be hideously inventive, but so too is the human spirit.
Robert Musil, trans. by Joel Agee
PositiveThe New York Times Book Review... vividly contemporary and sensuous translation ... If Musil’s science of the soul doesn’t always convince, the atmosphere between the siblings does. The erotic charge is palpable ... Witty, sensuous and desiring, but shunning what Ulrich calls \'appetitive\' striving, the siblings represent a particularly vibrant experiment in living at a time when few such options remain.
A K Benjamin
PositiveThe New Statesman... [a] strange and powerful book, poised between fiction and memoir, and on that wavering line where the neurological and the psychological intersect ... this is not a simple narrative of striking cases written by a far-seeing practitioner. It’s a turbo-charged race. Language darts and hurtles through a landscape of unyielding and punitive conditions. Transference may ever be in play for the professional mind doctor ... [Benjamin\'s] book is like a meeting of Oliver Sacks and Hunter S Thompson ... What stood out for me in a book that veers between the expressive and the therapeutic, were the insights into the increasingly impoverished NHS – the waiting rooms, the bare clinical spaces, the cuts, the strain on staff and medics struggling to serve extremely difficult patients. Breakdown is not only a category of the inner world.
PositiveThe New York Review of BooksHers is an impassioned indictment, one that glows with the heat of a prosecution motivated by an ethical imperative. She charges [Viennese pediatrician Hans] Asperger with a heinous medical crime: sending at least thirty-seven of his child patients to their deaths ... it is clear from the archival evidence Sheffer expertly amasses that he knew he was signing off on children’s fates. Crucially, too, his notions of what constituted \'autistic psychopathy\' in childhood, which he described most fully in his 1944 treatise of the same name, were deeply influenced by Nazi ideology ... Sheffer dramatically incorporates the voices of the few children who survived the sadistic terrors of the psychiatric regime into her account, as well as extant case notes. This makes for an anguishing text ... If I have one cavil with this impassioned book it is that Sheffer, in making her case against Asperger and Nazi mental health policy, perhaps too readily and speedily folds the enthusiastic and necessary reforms of the 1920s welfare state—with its far-reaching hopes of improvement for an impoverished class and hapless children—into the vicious Nazi state.
RaveIndependent\"This witty study of the Victorians and their bodily neuroses puts the carnal into biography ... She does so with gusto and panache, a great pinch of wit, and an assortment of tantalising ingredients culled from archives ... Hughes exposes the gorier side of her Victorians with glee. She has a particular fondness for innards ... Victorians Undone is an enthusiastic romp through a historical period that Hughes knows thoroughly. With its integrated pictures and colour plates, which include an image of a clipping of Darwin\'s beard, Victorians Undone offers a jaunty counterweight to more sober volumes. With her love of bodily detail, Hughes does indeed put the carnal back into biography. If by focusing on it so graphically, the rest of the human picture sometimes grows a little fuzzy, her zest more than makes up for the rest.\
PanThe New York Review of BooksThe rhetorical strategy at work here is that of a talented prosecutor. It traps the reader. Either you buy into the facts Crews foregrounds and relish the mounting glee of his attack or you’re propelled into an identification with the accused and ever struggling for breath, wishing that a defense attorney were in sight … His aim is to reveal that much of Freud’s writing on dreams, screen memories (or memories that hide deeper or older memories), love, sex, and marriage is more autobiographical than we already know. His Freud is utterly solipsistic, never actually drawing on patients or any human and social observation. So Freud’s essays on sex, love, and marriage are built on his own case, not on more general behavior.
Elena Ferrante, Trans. by Ann Goldstein
PositiveThe Guardian\"This is a fascinating volume, as ever beautifully translated by Ann Goldstein. At times, it is as absorbing as Ferrante’s extraordinary fictions and touches on troubling unconscious matter with the same visceral intensity. For those who can’t wait for the next Ferrante fiction to sink into, it provides a stopgap. There are perhaps one or two interviews with wordy interviewers too many. But occasional repetitions are outweighed by the insights into Ferrante’s writing process, her love of story above the fine, polished style so prized in contemporary Italian fiction.\