PositiveThe Sunday Times (UK)Clarey’s purpose is perhaps the most comprehensive book to date, an account of Federer’s journey from young prodigy to elder statesman that contains copious detail ... Clarey is a smooth, unpretentious writer who benefits from not being a Federer fanboy...He is as strong on Federer’s weaknesses as his strengths and writes with particular clarity on the struggles he has had with Djokovic ... Where the book falls down is in the lack of pace and fresh information, although, to be fair, Federer has not always been open about his life beyond the white lines. The Swiss emerges as a decent character, with huge talent, who finds life as uncomplicated as the game he has graced with such distinction.
MixedThe Sunday Times (UK)Throughout you glimpse Ferguson’s subtlety, eloquence and breadth of scholarship. But the book has a big defect — and not just because instant history is always fraught with danger. No, the problem is that it covers so much ground at such a breathless pace that the moment you hope that you are going to get Ferguson’s reasoned take on an issue, he has already moved on ... Sometimes, covering terrain at speed makes for a thrilling ride; here, you just wish Ferguson would slow down and give us more of his (excellent) analysis ... it is like being caught in an intellectual blizzard ... For me, this is the weakest of Ferguson’s books, not because of a lack of intellectual verve, but because of a strangely disappointing format. It is when this fine historian pauses to give topics the full blowtorch that his analysis penetrates the deepest. The sooner he is back, the better.
MixedThe Times (UK)Wilkerson’s most conspicuous achievement is putting stories behind these statistics, bringing these injustices to life, providing the reader with a sense, however vicarious, of how this plays out in the lives of millions of people every day. Much of this is told through the prism of her own life, but she also paints a broader mosaic of black experience in contemporary America, contrasting this with what it means to be white ... Her other achievement is shining a light on the history of racism in the US, not just its pseudo-scientific justification, but also its appalling violence. Her descriptions of lynchings in the early 20th century are particularly shocking ... Where the argument falls down, though, is in its main thesis. Wilkerson claims that American racism is comparable to the caste system of Hinduism and the eugenic practices of Nazi Germany. As someone with Indian heritage, I found the former analogy more than a little strained, given that the Brahmic system is a hierarchy based on ancient theology, but the latter comparison is both exaggerated and dangerous. Hitler was seeking to wipe out the Jewish people through mass murder. At that time in American history, black people suffered segregation and extrajudicial violence, but nothing approaching the state-sanctioned massacre of an entire people ... I also worry that Wilkerson’s remarkably bleak characterisation of America takes little account of the progress that has been made over the past 100 years, or of the fact that a broader comparison would have shown that most regions are in a more parlous state when it comes to social cohesion ... Wilkerson’s book is impressive in many ways, its characterisation of the everyday experience of racism almost perfectly judged. But it is let down by its organising analogies and arguments, and should be read with care.
RaveThe Daily BeastThe Finkler Question, a clever, canny, textured, subtle, and humane novel exploring the friendship of three ageing male friends, is Jacobson's 11th novel. Like the others, it is a work of greatness. The central preoccupation is with the nature of modern Jewishness, a common Jacobson theme, but over the course of the book this flays into a powerful and, at times, haunting examination of friendship, love, and loss … Jacobson's capacity to explore the minutiae of the human condition while attending to the metaphysics of human existence is without contemporary peer.