RaveWashington Independent Review of BooksMen in My Situation is fraught with tentativeness, for Arvid never seems to fully grasp anything or anyone he encounters. This is illuminated by Petterson’s use of first-person narration, which gives the reader a window into Arvid’s state of mind. The prose is as hesitant as our protagonist ... The book is so filled with refences to Oslo and its surroundings that it feels like a map ... At first glance, the geographic specificity seems gratuitous; ultimately, it creates the vivid sense of displacement that embodies Arvid’s feeling of loss ... Men in My Situation is superbly written and expertly translated. The language flows and seems quite natural—almost simple—yet is filled with richness and complexity. Per Petterson does not disappoint.
RaveWashington Independent Review of BooksA captivating tale ... I can say that The Book of Form and Emptiness is very real. It’s a wonderful, heartwarming story of emotional growth filled with characters as real as anyone you would meet on the street.
MixedThe Washington Independent Review of Books... most of these autofictional stories have no narrative arc and, while there is sometimes conflict, there is often no apparent resolution. They simply are, and they may leave the reader feeling deflated ... most lack any real emotional stakes. Their saving grace is that they illuminate much about Soviet society hidden from the West ... Throughout the collection, Iossel’s prose is often long-winded and choppy ... The title story in Love Like Water, Love Like Fire is definitely worth a read, maybe even two. The rest of the book, however, might best be described not as a collection of short stories so much as a fragmented look into everyday Soviet society — a way of life that few in the West have ever seen.
RaveThe Washington Independent Review of BooksThis is an instant classic. A novel that takes places during the Thatcher years and, in a way, defines it. A novel that explores the underbelly of Scottish society. A novel that digs through the grit and grime of 1980s Glasgow to reveal a story that is at once touching and gripping. Think D.H. Lawrence. Think James Joyce ... the American reader will need a Scottish to English dictionary to get through some of the local language ... well worth the slog through unfamiliar lingo. And the language is so well tuned that it transforms a working-class tale into a literary tour de force ... a novel that will capture your interest from the first page and immerse you in a world from which you want to escape but from which, like its protagonist, you can’t. There are characters you will hate and characters you will come to love ... realism at its best: a picture of the world as it is for those stuck in circumstances from which they cannot escape, one that relentlessly strives for redemption. Don’t expect a happy ending, but do expect to find yourself engrossed in a story that will leave you both wowed and numb.
Kamel Daoud, trans. by John Cullen
RaveThe Washington Independent Review of BooksKamel Daoud’s novel is an ekphrastic response to Camus’ masterpiece — a dialogue of sorts with the original; a tribute, or, more likely, a rebuke. In essence, it is all and none of these, for it is a work that stands on its own while at the same time alluding both subtly and overtly to the original ... Camus’ use of language in The Stranger is minimalist — short, curt sentences that mimic Meursault’s noncommittal nature. Daoud’s language, on the other hand, is filled with longer passages and lush descriptions of the environment, perhaps signaling a deeper connection between Harun and his surroundings, an interesting use of irony considering his separateness from his own people ... a superb tale, deftly conceived and executed.
PositiveWashington Independent Review of BooksEnter Brock Clarke, whose zany new novel, Who Are You, Calvin Bledsoe?, has an offbeat voice that perfectly fits this offbeat story ... Part of what makes the novel work so well...is the wry humor that permeates the story ... Who Are You, Calvin Bledsoe? is successful in illuminating lost lives that end up being less unsuccessful than those living them believe. It’s also a fun read by a rather successful author.