MixedThe Los Angeles TimesOf the nine stories in Magic for Beginners, six, including the title story, have enough in the way of charm, wry humor, invention and canny social observation to demonstrate that their author is a talented and skillful writer … Link is a writer with distinctive style and imagination, but the elements of the bizarre in her tales often seem forced. It is as if they are there just to grab our attention by shocking, surprising or teasing us, not because they are organic to the story.
Michel Houellebecq, Trans. by Frank Wynne
MixedThe Christian Science MonitorThe bulk of the book — and its strength — lies in its scathing jeremiad against contemporary society. The culmination of the so-called sexual liberation of the 1960s, Houellebecq argues, is a society without moral values of any kind … The story, filled with graphic portrayals of sexual excess, is not for the squeamish. But unlike some writers, Houellebecq succeeds in making it seem repellent, chilly, and sad rather than titillating. The dialogue, however, is almost comically awkward: When the brothers get together to talk, they sound as if they are reading aloud from polemical articles. In many ways more manifesto than novel, The Elementary Particles is full of provocative ideas, powerfully expressed. But a great work of literature? Not likely. A book that people should read? Yes.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
RaveThe Los Angeles TimesIn her second novel, Half of a Yellow Sun, this superbly talented writer has tackled a broader, more ambitious subject: the civil war that took place in the decade before her birth. Between her extensive readings and her family's memories of these events, Adichie clearly has the background and understanding to write such a novel. What's more, she has also found a way of engaging this large subject on the personal level by portraying it vividly and poignantly through the eyes of well-crafted characters … Adichie's novel also explores the depth and stubbornness of ethnic prejudices among Africans: not only Muslims versus Christians, or light-skinned Hausa versus dark-skinned Yoruba and Igbo, but even among members of the same group who come from different classes, different villages or even different families. Although Adichie sharply depicts the dreadful pettiness that's all too often part of human nature, she never loses sight of our capacity to rise above such limitations.