RaveWashington PostThese are the ingredients with which Geraldine Brooks begins her new novel, Horse, and, goodness, they are just as beguiling as her fluid, masterful storytelling ... I raced through the novel’s first half and then slowed and slowed as I went on, so worried for what might happen to Jarret and Theo and to Lexington that I could hardly bear to find out. Horse is not a grim book, but it did sometimes make me very angry, and it did make me cry. Horse is a reminder of the simple, primal power an author can summon by creating characters readers care about and telling a story about them — the same power that so terrifies the people so desperately trying to get Toni Morrison banned from their children’s reading lists.
PositiveNew York Times Book ReviewI’m not sure what I think about Either/Or, ... Did I like these books? Yes, so much that I felt bereft when I finished them. Batuman’s fiction is immersive and funny. She somehow extracts a meticulous accuracy of expression and high level of thought from an invitingly casual tone and unfussy prose in a way that seems effortless, even inevitable. But, on a conceptual level, these novels also left me itchy, as though I had absorbed the tendency of Batuman’s narrator and autofictional alter ego, Selin Karadag, to overthink things, to get mired in questions and take everything personally ... Don’t read Either/Or without reading The Idiot ... The tension between wanting to feel as though she is living a coherent narrative versus her unwillingness to be bound by any script is not easily resolved for Selin. Not much is, really, and her narration is peppered with an abundance of unanswerable questions that suggest an illusory, galaxy-brain-meme kind of depth — but actually function as markers of confusion ... It’s unreasonable to expect a 19-year-old to have all the answers, but was it also unreasonable for me to wish that the novel would do more than replicate Selin’s bewilderment? ... How and what fiction should be...is a major preoccupation of Batuman’s and also the heart of my ambivalence ... I’ll admit I sometimes wanted Either/Or to reach for more, to be a little bigger, to stretch outside the confines of Selin, but, in the end, I’ll read as many books about Selin as Batuman wants to write. It’s all good.
PositiveNew York Times Book ReviewGonzalez is clearly concerned with making sure her readers understand the historical injustices that have befallen Puerto Rico — and their contemporary consequences, which creates a novelistic challenge. How to illuminate a presumably poorly informed (I’m guilty) audience about complex sociopolitical realities without also knocking readers out of what John Gardner called fiction’s \'vivid and continuous dream\'? ... Gonzalez’s main strategies are to allow Olga’s mother to edify the reader along with her children through her letters and to have characters speak to each other in blocks of exposition ... These lectures get the job done, but, along with frequent detours into back story, sometimes feel like a frustrating countercurrent to the momentum of the book’s present, ongoing plot ... When the novel turns its attention to storytelling, it is most affecting and most alive.
PositiveThe New York Times Book Review... dark and juicy and tinged with horror ... while indeed she works with mystery and suspense and draws on noir and Gothic tropes, her goal seems less to construct intricate, double-crossing plot problems than to explore the dark side of femininity. Her prose is often incantatory, her dialogue lightly stylized. Frequently her tone has a strong flavor, pungent and fermented ... a bit of gore, but its deepest preoccupation is with bodies and sex ... the novel is so relentlessly saturated with sexual imagery and innuendo that at times it can feel like too much ... I found myself wondering if a dancer reading The Turnout might be made to feel uncomfortable, even stripped of some dignity ... while the narration sometimes feels omniscient, the story is refracted through one particular lens: Dara’s. Her consciousness is given to the reader impressionistically ... The Turnout revels in its own bigness, its drama, its relish for cataclysmic passion and its appetite for the grotesque, but some of Abbott’s deftest work involves an underlying interplay between strength and fragility.
MixedSan Francisco Chronicle\"There’s a bemusing, sometimes frustrating randomness to the experience of reading straight through, a feeling not unlike catching glimpses of a city from a moving car. What’s that? Who’s that? What’s down that street? The correct attitude seems to be not to worry too much about the answers ... the knownness of celebrity provides useful context in a largely context-free book, and Kipen... also makes good use of literary novelists like William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Aldous Huxley ... Phantom plotlines appear and disappear... but individual narratives, however tantalizing, aren’t the point of this book. The point is accumulation.\
Grace Dane Mazur
MixedThe New York TimesSuch an abundance of characters is a bit of a crowd in a 212-page book, and Mazur takes an impressionistic approach to her narrative, flitting from one point of view to the next and cutting between short scenes ... Despite a few unexpected cross-family bonds forged over asparagus, Mazur’s affections and sympathies lie so clearly with the manic-pixie-dream-family Cohens that it’s difficult to resist rooting rebelliously for the Barlows, who deserve more credit ... Ultimately, The Garden Party is a mood piece, less concerned with the profoundly tricky merging of individuals and families than with the beguilements of summer and of love.
PanThe New RepublicTampa seems to belong to the literary-fiction-infused-with-sex, Rothian genre—a novel with titillating interludes but also a core idea: how much less disturbing we find relationships between grown women and young boys than those between men and underage girls...but Tampa’s challenge to that the double standard is not especially potent. Because its sexual content is both highly graphic and purposefully off-putting, it occupies uneasy, unresolved territory between erotica and satire … Unmitigated monstrosity is not the most incisive means of approaching the subject of female pedophilia. By making Celeste essentially inhuman, a satirical cartoon of a predator, Nutting avoids the tangled issues of power that lie beneath cultural norms for gender and sex. If Celeste were complicated beyond her fixation, the novel would be more erotic, more transgressive, and sharper in its commentary.
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewInterweaving is the mechanism that propels this novel. Tight-linked chains of action and response, misapprehension and revelation are braided together into a narrative that may, at times, feel a little too tidy and, at others, a little too diffuse but, through Solomon’s strong prose and fleet pacing, consistently provides the essential pleasures of a good story well told ... There is an agreeably old-fashioned forthrightness to the way Solomon crafts those characters.