RaveTimes Literary Supplement (UK)The tendency of reality, in its roughest form, to interrupt the most painstakingly choreographed of our lives’ arrangements is another constant at the heart of this novel ... \'We half walked, half waltzed along\'. This wouldn’t be a bad description of the way the novel’s plot unfolds, swirling off at seeming tangents, always finely, if precariously, poised. Rilke’s narrative voice, with its constant flow of dry and quirky observation, keeps the reader enthralled. And so does the plot ... The Second Cut is exhilarating in its wit, its sophistication and its freewheeling energy, but most of all in being so bracingly down-to-earth.
RaveThe Times Literary Supplement (UK)No novelist has registered the impact of this cruelty on the life of the individual more forcefully than Jenni Fagan ... An audacious statement and a terrific read, Luckenbooth asserts her right to participate in this most central of Scottish traditions while reinventing it for the twenty-first century ... Much of Edinburgh’s earlier history finds its way in—the conventional, the \'unofficial\' and the downright folkloric. The result is a kaleidoscopic scene: an oppressive normality constantly jarred and jostled by acts of individual rebellion and of love ... The narrative that follows is at its core what R. L. Stevenson self-deprecatingly called a \'crawler\', with all the unabashed sensationalism that implies. But also with its suggestion of a civic respectability dogged by a deep malevolence which is, at bottom, all its own. For Fagan, we are haunted not just by the dead but by those whose gender, sexuality, race or class has meant their marginalization, their exclusion from the life of society at large.
Mario Levrero, tr. Annie McDermott
PositiveThe Times Literary Supplement (UK)It is inevitably, and deliberately, a letdown. Despite being divided into real chapters, with at least the suggestion of an overarching narrative, it is written in the same solemn and confiding first-person voice as is the Diary, and in much the same loose and rambling conversational style. It also embraces much the same semi-autobiographical subject matter, with a special emphasis on its narrator’s array of obsessions and anxieties – not least the trouble he has in settling down to his writing ... Altogether, then, it would be hard to overstate the banality of much of the material here. And yet it compels our continuing attention. More than this: as it lurches on in its awkward, clumsy way, with all the grace of a circus bear negotiating a tightrope, it grips our imagination in ways we cannot readily pin down...His delivery is stolidly earnest, but we cannot help but ironize it, any more than we can help but sense the profundity beyond, and behind, his printed words ... Levrero’s book is strenuous in the passivity of its quest ... The truly luminous novel here may be the one that got away, but The Luminous Novel takes us so much closer (we can’t help thinking) to the heart of things. In its author’s words a \'museum of unfinished stories\', all provisional, never definitive, it showcases the circumstantial detail that surrounds and sustains our grander narratives, and in so doing produces an improbably enthralling reading experience. Annie McDermott copes admirably with prose whose insistent plainness cannot have given her much purchase. No realm of gold, Levrero-land holds extraordinary treasures of its own. Prosaic it may be but Latin American literature has never seemed more unfamiliar or unfathomable than it does here; not so much lo real maravilloso as the miraculous mundane.
Carlos Ruiz Zafón, Trans. by Lucia Graves
PositiveThe GuardianThe 1940s Barcelona of Carlos Ruiz Zafón's new novel is by no means the trendy tourist destination of today; rather, it's a city shut down for the duration in death and fear. Its buildings pockmarked by gunfire or abandoned by bankrupt dynasties, it is a place in material and metaphorical ruins. Survivors of civil war, its people hang on grimly, with no apparent expectation of better times … This is the standard stuff of doctrinaire postmodernism. That this elaborate nest of narratives stacks together so neatly is impressive; that the cogs which drive the action whir quite so swiftly and smoothly is little short of miraculous. Zafón's real virtues are more old-fashioned ones, though: what makes this novel so irresistibly readable is the emotional energy generated by the ups and downs of a big and varied cast of memorable characters.