RaveFinancial Times (UK)Boyd writes from a position of knowledge. His depictions of artists working in other forms have always been convincing ... The same is true of the characters in his new novel ... Boyd’s prose is as fluent as ever, but it’s the ideas pulsing beneath the surface of the story that distinguish Trio ... Trio is affecting as a subtle exploration of the relationship between individuals and history and as a depiction of characters who are searching for the things that make life worth living, whether they find them in film, literature or elsewhere.
MixedThe Financial Times (UK)I found Colin’s voice affected, particularly in its repetitions ... The period observations would be better suited to a memoir ... There could be a broader social commentary here as 1975, the year Colin met Ray, was when Britons voted overwhelmingly to stay in the European Economic Community. Later, Colin mentions Aids — a subject Mars-Jones explored in his short-story collection Monopolies of Loss— and the melancholic tone of these passages indicates that Colin’s story might be a metaphor for the losses gay men would endure ... Making such claims, however, I can hear myself trying to find meanings in Box Hill that aren’t necessarily there. It’s a clever and subtle novel but one that left me cold ... there is a stark cinematic quality to Box Hill. If the book were transferred to the screen, its strange atmosphere might be arresting, but on the page the material falls flat.
Linda Bostrom Knausgaard, Trans. by Rachel Willson-Broyles
RaveThe Independent (UK)The emotional intensity created by Boström Knausgaard—who has previously published stories and a collection of poems—recalls Sylvia Plath, but her spare, accelerating modern myth owes something to the poet/classicist Anne Carson\'s novels in verse ... Some readers will be put off by the combination of lyricism and distress but I love the way Boström Knausgaard invests \'Dad\'— one of the key words of our lives—with fresh power. In Anna\'s mouth, this simple, multitudinous word reminds me of Flaubert ... there\'s levity ... Nevertheless, the violence—of language, blood, mania – assaults the reader as Anna plumbs the depths of a condition which sounds similar to bipolar disorder. This novella cannot be read quickly, its psychological range and febrile prose demand attentiveness. It takes skill and imagination to describe extreme emotions in ways to which everybody can relate but that\'s what Boström Knausgaard achieves in this short, piercing book.
Elizabeth Hardwick and Robert Lowell, Ed. by Saskia Hamilton
PositiveFinancial Times (UK)\"The pair filled their letters with literary references and Hamilton traces every allusion. The same commitment was palpable when Hamilton co-edited Words In Air (2008) — four decades’ worth of letters between Lowell and the poet Elizabeth Bishop, which I didn’t so much read as feel I was living in for 800 pages, so rich was it in artistic insight and social history. ... Reading their letters today, I feel some of the awe Hardwick expressed when the philosopher Hannah Arendt was ill in 1974: \'That whole generation and its learning, the kind of thinking it did, the greatness of the lives and the persons.\'
PositiveThe Financial Times (UK)The drama ratchets up as the Essinger siblings arrive at their family home in Austin, Texas, for a seasonal gathering. As the novel continues, \'the presence of accumulated life\', as one character puts it, proves utterly absorbing ... A Weekend in New York explored multiple characters’ perspectives but it was ultimately Paul’s novel, in part because the reader rooted for him on the court. Its sequel is a broader family portrait ...
Svetlana Alexievich, Trans. by Bela Shayevich
RaveThe Independent (UK)[Alexievich] ... interviews ordinary citizens and shapes their testimonies into coherent narratives. The result is an extraordinary work of non-fiction which is composed of the types of stories that usually go untold amid the march of time and change ... It’s no surprise to find alcoholism, brutality and suicide featuring prominently in accounts of the former-Soviet Union. But this book communicates more clearly than anything I’ve encountered before the bewilderment Russians feel at their country’s chaotic transition from socialism to capitalism ... I struggle to find much light amid the darkness of these 700 pages. The courage involved in the collaborations between Alexievich and her interviewees is itself a source of hope but many of their stories are relentlessly disturbing. Perhaps you’ll find more reasons to feel optimistic than I do but, regardless, you should read Second-Hand Time. The narratives Alexievich has sculpted take place in landlocked settings and yet, in Bela Shayevich’s English translation, they come at the reader in thunderous waves, churned from oceans of history. This book – important without sounding self-important – is heart-breaking and impossible to put down.
PositiveThe Financial Times\"[McCulloch\'s] tone is endearingly nerdy, her accessible ideas the fruit of her academic research and experience of writing the Resident Linguist column for Wired magazine ... helpful if you find yourself baffled by emoji in messages from younger relatives, or have to google acronyms or often deliberate over how to begin an email ... Can internet language be truly \'revolutionary\' if it is forged on platforms that are owned by tech companies which, like 18th-century authors of dictionaries, have their own agendas? McCulloch ignores such questions and, at times, there is something coercive about her headlong embrace of the new: if you aren’t, say, one of the \'two million people [who] use emoji every single hour\', you’ll be left behind ... These reservations aside, McCulloch offers a compelling snapshot of a world in flux, from which readers will learn a lot about language, the internet and themselves.
RaveThe Independent... wrenching but often very funny and self-deprecating too ... loving, humorous accounts of family, friends and pets have the potential to expand our compassion towards the strangers who live among us ... Hemon is interested in the ways that we use narrative and language to negotiate trauma ... extraordinary.
RaveFinancial TimesThe staccato prose, repetition and alliteration here typify Glass’s writing style; the effect is propulsive and absorbing, the violent scenes and visceral details discomfiting. Glass tries to narrow the gap as much as possible between what her narrator feels and what the reader feels. Peach is only 98 pages long but, on finishing it, you won’t feel short-changed and you wouldn’t want it to be any longer—it is an intensely physical reading experience ... Glass’s publisher calls her writing \'lyrical\' but it isn’t flowery and she rarely wastes words. Everything about Peach is clipped: the title, jabbing sentences, spare use of commas, characters’ names, unspecified setting. Glass is careful not to overburden her prose with imagery and, when she does deliver a striking image, it is all the more impactful for that ... The narrative is tightly controlled ... As a novel about an assault against a woman, Peach feels both timely and timeless.
PositiveIndependent\"Dave Eggers\' new novel hits you with prose as stark and as luminous as its Saudi Arabian setting ... while his seventh book exhibits his versatility again, it should confirm Eggers\' position among America\'s leading contemporary writers.\
PositiveThe Financial Times... [Means\'s] long sentences and abrupt shifts in setting can be confusing ... it’s still possible to get lost in multi-clause sentences (one clocks in at 549 words). His maximalist prose style, however, has greater impact within the confines of the short form ... uses collapsing timeframes and figures from American mythology — FBI agents, gangsters, Depression-era Okies — to populate an imaginative world rooted in the familiar, while offering an alternative vision of America’s present and its past ... a short collection but it contains a considerable amount of life ... no matter what his characters suffer, Means believes in the power of stories to rescue and redeem people.
MixedFinancial Times\"Only true Berliners will be interested in Welcome Home, a brief but disjointed collection of unfinished memoir, photographs and letters — and they may feel it does a disservice to its author. It starts brilliantly with Berlin writing about her childhood... But the memoir is palpably a draft, and there’s something deflating about encountering people and events easily recognisable from the stories. More insightful are the letters charting Berlin’s early attempts at writing.\
PositiveFinancial Times\"... why weren’t these 22 stories selected for [A Manual for Cleaning Women]? The answer, equally inevitably, is that they’re not as strong. There’s nothing here as harrowing, for example, as \'Unmanageable\' ... or as piercingly humane as the earlier book’s title story. Yet, all the same, there’s still plenty in Evening in Paradise to conjure the original thrill of reading Berlin.\
RaveThe Financial TimesAt times, A Terrible Country reads like non-fiction, especially when it veers into polemic ... Andrei’s views on Putin’s Russia are refreshing and accessible, as they’re articulated in Gessen’s precise, unornamented prose, but it’s the details about his Russian characters’ lives that really stick in the mind ... A Terrible Country tells the reader a lot about contemporary Russia and, importantly, lifts the lid on domestic political resistance to Putin. But what makes this a moving and thought-provoking novel is Andrei’s personal struggle to find his way in the world, his sense of obligation to his family and his realization that his parents’ emigration—the very thing that has afforded him opportunities—was \'the great tragedy of my grandmother’s life.\'
RaveThe Financial TimesThe staccato prose, repetition and alliteration here typify Glass’s writing style; the effect is propulsive and absorbing, the violent scenes and visceral details discomfiting. Glass tries to narrow the gap as much as possible between what her narrator feels and what the reader feels. Peach is only 98 pages long but, on finishing it, you won’t feel short-changed and you wouldn’t want it to be any longer — it is an intensely physical reading experience ... Everything about Peach is clipped: the title, jabbing sentences, spare use of commas, characters’ names, unspecified setting. Glass is careful not to overburden her prose with imagery and, when she does deliver a striking image, it is all the more impactful for that ... As a novel about an assault against a woman, Peach feels both timely and timeless. It challenges the reader to examine their responses to the narrator.
PositiveThe Financial TimesThis dystopian Britain of the near future sounds only slightly worse than the one we know ... Kennard, 35, is the author of five poetry collections. His poems can be hilarious but they subtly express moral concerns too; in The Transition, he reins in his absurdist instincts and makes explicit Karl’s decency ... The reader roots for this flawed but sympathetic figure, as he tries to uncover the truth about The Transition and save Genevieve ... The Transition has similarities with Kingsley Amis’s Lucky Jim (1954): both are first novels, written in times of austerity; both feature underachieving male protagonists in unnamed provincial cities; both authors channel their anger into comedy and gripping plots. Occasionally, Kennard’s characters sound like they’re expressing his own views and the novel risks becoming didactic.
PositiveThe Financial TimesAs a stylist, Cohen can be thrilling to read but his long multi-clause sentences occasionally get knotty and require patient unravelling. The prose of Moving Kings is generally leaner than elsewhere in his oeuvre and alive to everyday details ... At 240 pages, Moving Kings is considerably shorter than Cohen’s previous two novels but it’s sharper and feels important and timely for the way it dramatises life at the harsh end of western societies where housing is regarded as a commodity rather than a right. This is a deeply political novel that helps us to imagine a world where the real kings and queens will not be the property racketeers, but instead those who attain a freedom that has nothing to do with what they own.