PositiveAsymptoteSecondhand Time’s arrival in English...serves as a timely antidote to reports in the Western press about Russian nationalism. It is a necessary rejoinder not because the reports are false; rather, too little attention has been given to the complicated reasons behind the nationalistic sentiment ... Russia is a huge country and the various opinions expressed by Ms. Alexievich’s interlocutors cover an area nearly as vast ... Like insects that are suspended forever inside Russian amber, Secondhand Time is a testamentary record, a safe-keep of Russians’ beliefs and feelings as they existed in our time. Ms. Alexievich’s format of revealing history through individual stories feels more nuanced and more perceptive than conventional histories, a result that validates her conviction that it is at the individual level \'where everything really happens.\' Leo Tolstoy would certainly agree.
Igiaba Scego, trans. by Aaron Robertson
RaveOn the Seawall... sweeping and bold ... Scego’s book bears witness to the impossibility of remaining exiled from your own past ... The novel’s language is sensuous and playful, and Scego’s lush descriptions create imagery that gives a supple richness to her characters’ memories ... Scego is refreshingly unabashed in discussing the corporeal — what the female body does naturally — birth, menstruation, breastfeeding; and, what is done to and in violation of it — female circumcision, rape, coerced abortion. In this way she punctuates how a woman’s agency over her body is fundamental to her self-identity ... In portraying the inner lives of refugee women and their first-generation, immigrant daughters, Scego has created a work of great empathy that is a testament to the psychological dissonance that refugees suffer as they remake lives in foreign places while under the pervasive shadow of brutal pasts.
RaveLos Angeles Review of Books\"... a compelling, beautifully articulated work that is a profound and unsentimental composition on exile ... Lost Children Archive incorporates samples from actual literary works, music, photographs, maps, and official records into its plot, and the novel’s intertextuality, the way that these items communicate with and relate to Luiselli’s story, is masterful ... The novel is rich with parallels ... Lost Children Archive brings into sharp focus the deep wrongs that are being inflicted upon immigrant children in our name. It demands that our numbed complacency be shaken, and our rage unleashed.\
Alessandro Spina, trans. by André Naffis-Sahely
PositiveWorld Literature TodayThe English-language publication of Alessandro Spina’s grand, historical novel about twentieth-century Benghazi is a welcome antidote ... Spina’s colorful tales of unrequited love, betrayal, and revenge spring from a cacophony of diverse voices.
RaveThe Los Angeles Review of Books\"Asymmetry is not a mystery novel, at least not in the way that we typically think about that genre. But there is most certainly a mystery at the novel’s core, one that arises from the book’s structure — two seemingly unrelated novellas appended by a short coda — rather than its plot … Significantly (and without giving away Asymmetry’s secret), a common theme is present in Amar’s and Alice’s stories. In each, Halliday subtly examines whether fiction-writing has a purpose beyond art … While Asymmetry impresses at the structural level, it is above all Halliday’s superb storytelling that shines.\
PositiveFull StopThe weight of this life-shaping choice and its ramifications for a woman who knows that she made the wrong choice are the tensions that drive The Resurrection of Joan Ashby, Cherise Wolas’ remarkable debut novel … Wolas excavates the years-long emotional tumult of a woman who loves her children but loves her career much more, a reality that taints Joan’s relationships with her husband and two sons and roils her self-identity. Joan resents that her constant family obligations divert her from writing, a resentment that breeds both regret that she has a husband and children and guilt that she feels that way … Perhaps most interesting is Wolas’ interrogation of personal ambition, which she examines not only from the vantage of society’s double standard toward the demonstrated career ambitions of a mother of young children versus a father, but also by looking at how personality and individual experiences determine the resilience of ambition.
PositiveWorld Literature TodayThe best historical novels impose familiar tensions upon unfamiliar locales and eras, making place and time come alive with accurate details and bold imagination. Elif Shafak excels in this alchemy with her latest novel, The Architect’s Apprentice...takes place in and around the sixteenth-century court of the Turkish sultanate, and the writing is rich with the magical, sensory world of Istanbul court life, where sport is made of acquiring the rarest and most extravagant items from East and West ...Shafak’s language flows with an enjoyable and elegant confidence disturbed only by a noticeable overuse of opposites and lists, which after a time can leave the impression that there is no observation or feeling that also does not contain its contradiction; no item that exists in isolation ... The mysteries that give momentum to The Architect’s Apprentice arise as a consequence of the double lives of the novel’s principal characters.
MixedThe RumpusExcept for a few false notes (in particular a very clumsily sex scene, comes to mind), each of the book’s seven hundred pages demonstrates Proulx’s mastery of straightforward yet deeply imaginative prose ... Despite Proulx’s strong writing, Barkskins lacks momentum, and its length makes this more evident than it otherwise might be. The narrative is episodic rather than tightly plotted (apart from a bit of intrigue about the rightful heirs to the Duke family business, and even that quickly dispensed), and as a result the tension that would enliven the novel’s slow, sleepy pulse is missing ... Many of the settings and personalities feel shallow. Missing is the interiority of the characters, an evocation of how individual perceptions create subtle shifts of thought and feeling.