PositiveThe Seattle TimesHannah fills the pages with the terror, awe, beauty and almost unimaginable remoteness of the magnificent landscape, where a failure to stock enough firewood can mean freezing to death, and a single slippery misstep on a trail can end a life ... To follow up on the runaway international success of Hannah’s The Nightingale must have been a daunting challenge, and while The Great Alone may not eclipse that mega-seller, it’s a worthy successor.
RaveThe Seattle TimesHelen Simonson has created the cozy village world of Edgecombe St. Mary, where the Major can often be found polishing his treasured Churchill sporting gun in his comfortable home with its pastoral surroundings, Rose Lodge. Both the Churchill gun and that pastoral view figure prominently in the novel's plot … Simonson gives us a cast of very broadly drawn characters, including not only the Major's rapacious niece, whose eye is ‘beady as a gull eyeing a bag of garbage’ (and who wants to sell the valuable guns), but also Mrs. Ali's grim nephew and the Major's truly horrid son Roger — a blatantly callous social climber … Social climbing, material possessions and traditions all pale beside more important issues — such as whether Major Pettigrew has really been a better father to the awful Roger than his own distant Dad was to him. And whether he really cares what villagers and relatives think about his love for Mrs. Ali.
RaveThe Seattle TimesHold this book, all 985 pages, in your hands. And then reflect that it's only Part I of a Century Trilogy, in which novelist Ken Follett will follow the various fortunes of five families as they traverse the 20th century ... It is a big leap from the medieval cathedral to the gathering storm clouds of World War I ...although Follett is just fine at creating dense and convoluted plot lines, it is the characters that grab us for this epic journey ... There are few slow points in the narrative, although this reader must confess to a few 'eyes-glazing-over' moments in the lengthy sections...he specializes in simple, direct writing that focuses on the story line rather than its embellishments ... It's well worth a journey of 985 pages through a book whose heft may help develop your biceps ... And while it sounds bizarre to consider a book this huge a 'page-turner,' that's exactly what Fall of Giants is.
PositiveThe Seattle TimesBainbridge Island novelist Kristin Hannah has based her newest novel in war-torn France during World War II, when a brave and rebellious young woman (code name: Nightingale) risks everything to smuggle downed Allied airmen through a mountainous route out of France to Spain ... It is no surprise that guilt and resentment brew between the sisters as adults; they both have their share of regrets, though they also have a shared love that shines, even through the terrible events of the novel ... The Nightingale is framed as the reminiscence of one of the sisters — we don’t initially know which one... She is galvanized by an invitation to a reunion in France more than five decades after the main events of the novel. The conclusion brings the action full circle for a moving and meaningful resolution.
Roberto Bolaño, Trans. by Natasha Wimmer
RaveThe Seattle TimesTo read Roberto Bolaño's massive and final five-part novel, 2666, is to embark on a gigantic journey with this restless and imaginative writer, whose prose ranges as far and wide as did the author's own path across Chile, Mexico and Spain ... Every piece of it seems somehow different from every other piece, written by an author who composes everything from sharply pointed dialogue to sentences that spin on and on for five pages ... The writing style, with each page full of brilliant touches, is hard to categorize ...Bolaño writes this massive novel with a poet's ear for the succinct word — yet there are single uninterrupted sentences that go on for five pages, with clauses heaped upon clauses.
RaveThe Seattle TimesSeaman’s lively portraits make the reader eager to rediscover them, a process helped along by the book’s photos of them and their art. Seaman’s zesty writing brings to life her passion for these subjects ... The descriptions of the artists’ lives, their fascinating quirks, and most of all their artworks, are unfailingly fun to read.
RaveThe Seattle TimesBrave, complicated, occasionally horrifying and frequently very funny ... Frankel is a first-rate storyteller; her prose style is witty, thoughtful and warm, hampered only by an overreliance on foreshadowing and portents of doom as transitions. The deep feeling and insight of her writing is surely informed by personal experience. As Frankel observed in The New York Times, she is the mother of a smart, funny, brave second-grader who used to be a little boy, and is now a little girl. The old adage, 'Write what you know,' is compellingly true here.
PositiveThe Seattle TimesPortents of doom lurk on nearly every page of this novel ... A Separation circles in and around itself, in style as well as in plot; clauses upon clauses merge in lengthy sentences strung together by commas. No quotation marks are used in accounts of conversations, a practice that seems disconcerting at first. The prose flows forward, and the author’s sense of direction is sure; there is a point to every observation ... But there is much more than the Christopher mystery to this taut little novel with its disquieting observations about secrets, lies, and the ways in which we all are impenetrable to each other.
Haruki Murakami and Seiji Ozawa
PositiveThe Seattle TimesOn paper, that dialogue reads like a playscript, and while it’s fairly short on plot, Absolutely on Music is packed with insights likely to enthrall music lovers ... What comes through in these conversations is the devotion both men feel for music; the degree to which every detail of a work matters to them; and the strength of their yearning to connect to great symphonies and concertos ... The biographical details are fascinating, too ... In some chapters, the conversations referring to specific musical moments can get pretty technical; it would be great if the book had a companion CD.
RaveThe Seattle TimesThis is a luminous book that sucks you in ... Though coincidences sometimes play an oversized role in advancing the plot, Faithful doesn’t have the magical realism elements that are found in some of Hoffman’s fiction. Nor is it a young-adult novel, strictly speaking — though Shelby and her milieu will surely resonate with younger readers as well as...um, mature reviewers.
RaveThe Seattle Times...[a] remarkable, powerful novel ... The book’s concluding chapters are finely nuanced as Donald wrestles with his moral dilemma, and his own unwitting contributions to it. Does he make the right decision? It’s impossible to know, but Livesey makes you wonder and reconsider — and admire her skill in giving you no obvious answers.
PositiveThe Seattle TimesThe privations of wartime — no food, no money, no heat, inadequate clothing, horrendous tooth decay — are described in vivid and very extensive detail ... At points, Baker’s narrative feels a bit self-consciously arty. But she re-creates vividly Beckett’s own terrible struggle with words and his emergence as a writer.