PositiveTimes Literary Supplement (UK)[A] lucid, sweeping yet detailed history of the island ... The book’s title...implies a deeply mythical place, refashioned again and again by its chroniclers. The island’s meanings are multiple and elusive ... MacKay is careful not to overstate the case for Sicilian progressiveness and diversity, and he keeps a level-headed tone.
RaveLondon Review of Books (UK)Weinberger’s...a storyteller after Benjamin’s heart, and has no truck with functionalist explanations; he relishes the unverifiable and offers no rhyme or reason for what he is passing on. He doesn’t claim that saints’ stories help keep track of time or indeed that they have any purpose at all. His distinctive poetic method...is montage, but it has something in common with the cento form, in which a poem emerges from a collage of quotations, each of them unchanged in tself, but profoundly altered by the compiler’s selection, the harmony and dissonance produced by the repetitions and sequencing ... The effect is hilarious at times, but also puzzling and captivating: the gymnastics of human thought can be as spectacular as the art of a Simone Biles ... For all the stylish whimsy of this bizarre catalogue, its compiler can’t help but be seduced. Wallace Stevens’s enigmatic half-seen ‘necessary angel’ has eclipsed the Voltairean wag, and Weinberger has slipped back into the poetic calling.
PositiveBook PostNow and then Atwood’s wit lights up the prevailing misery ... Atwood’s feminism has always been subtle and she remains too wise—too cynical?—to be a fervent supporter of any movement; through The Testaments’ many female characters, she explores with a novelist’s complexity the absence of easy solutions to sharp questions about equality between men and women ... The crucial connection between Atwood and the metoo uprising lies here: that changing sexual practices can hold the key to political renewal or increased oppression ... Towards the close, The Testaments turns into a spy-thriller cum girls’-own-adventure. It is stirring stuff, vintage storytelling, but ultimately the young heroines’ pluck and resilience come to seem implausible. Nor are the first-person voices of their testimonies distinct enough; they ask to be taken at face value, and lack self-deception or irony—the direct conventions of film realism have overruled more literary craft. Yet, with the upbeat denouement—a classic fairy-tale ending—Atwood, our Lady Oracle, makes a promise to us that, at this time of public turmoil and depravity, change is coming, and that is the deep function of a fairy tale, to hold out a belief in change, and a possible end to injustice.
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewComyns, a British writer who died in 1992, was no self-declared feminist, yet she takes up here the voice of one of the most wicked stepmothers in the fairy tale canon, and not only understands her, but makes her the sympathetic heart of the story. This is not easy … Her method is not to estrange reality, but to render weirdness part of the everyday: The novel calls to mind a bolt of richly textured fabric that, when the light falls on it one way, looks perfectly bright and ordinary, but when it falls another way, reveals deep rifts and wrinkles, through which rise vivid glimpses of off-kilter disturbance … Comyns’s own witchy way of looking at the world arises from her resourceful craft — her wordsmithery — which like a spell or a charm gives her fiction a unique flavor.
PositiveThe GuardianPullman’s immense powers of kinaesthetic visualisation keep the story pulsing on an epic scale as enchanted allegory combines with a full-on retelling of the Biblical story of the flood ... Pullman has come to resemble the Ancient Mariner, shaking hoary locks, demanding we pay attention to the calamities gathering on all sides. The radiant devices and other wishful dreams of alternative futures have rather faded from view in this new book, and the child heroes are beleaguered and alone in their valiant struggle against huge, massed forces of harm. The tension in Pullman between deep attraction to magic and fierce atheistic pragmatism resolves itself into a commitment to art – especially shipshapeliness; this is a properly Romantic attitude. Just as his concept of daemons owes a lot to Coleridge’s ideas about inspiration, and his absolute trust in imagination rings with the hopes and beliefs of Keats and Shelley, so the commitment to the making of things as well as possible in the here and now expresses his faith that a well-made story, like the small, well-trimmed boat that carries the children on their long, dangerous journey, will offer shelter in any storm.
MixedThe New York Review of BooksGreenblatt follows the story of Adam and Eve through theology, literature, art, biology, and even an excursus into paleontology, with a wistful eye for the counterfactual. He reviews the metamorphoses of scripture’s reception from God’s immutable word to fantastic myth (though not for all, of course) and makes a case for its force when read as imaginative literature … Greenblatt’s most persuasive and passionate argument considers the interactions between Genesis and the Epic of Gilgamesh. He argues that the creators of the Genesis story, who would have come to know Babylonian cosmology during the Hebrews’ long captivity in Babylon in the sixth century BCE, told their own story of the beginning in dialogic dispute with their masters … After the powerful opening chapters, the end feels wavering. The rise in religious beliefs, in the classroom and throughout the political spectrum, has made analyzing interactions between doctrine and ideology, make-believe and literature, a far more sensitive undertaking.
Lesley Nneka Arimah
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewA witty, oblique and mischievous storyteller, Arimah can compress a family history into a few pages and invent utopian parables, magical tales and nightmare scenarios while moving deftly between comic distancing and insightful psychological realism ... As in most collections, a few entries are less successful, but throughout Arimah demonstrates a deft wit and an ability to surprise herself — and her readers — with the depth and delicacy of her feelings ... Arimah’s magic realism owes something to Ben Okri’s use of spirit beliefs, while her science fiction parables, with their ecological and feminist concerns, recall those of Margaret Atwood. But it would be wrong not to hail Arimah’s exhilarating originality: She is conducting adventures in narrative on her own terms, keeping her streak of light, that bright ember, burning fiercely, undimmed.