RaveBookforumThis is a distinctly Jewish story, almost Talmudic in its interpretative layering. People tell stories about themselves, and these stories are shaped not by their voices or characters but by unique self-understandings. Each story is essentially a puzzling out of an experience of loss … Each of these stories shares the unmistakable quality of confession. This is an odd word choice, given the Jewishness of this book—the austere yet overwrought language, the pride and self-abnegation, the way objects are metaphors and actions are parables. But these are not private confessions between a sinner and her pastor, where redemption is the goal. These are stories of people—meant to be heard, understood, and, most critically, never forgotten. So this is Krauss’s take on the Jewish confessional mode.
RaveBookforumIt's a drawing-room drama in which Messud deviously transposes all of the tawdry ambitions of Victorian society to the Upper West Side, and lo and behold, the parlor starts to look bitterly familiar … This is New York intelligentsia: an incidental gathering of fauna, beset by privilege and neurosis, grappling with a relativistic social code that provides for happiness and tragedy in the most abstruse, often acid, ways … This tightly knit web—a kind of mini-panorama of New York society—is at the heart of Messud's rather ingenious craft. The characters are all extraordinarily drawn—the minutiae of everyone's unhappiness (manifested often through their relationship with Murray) rings true.
RaveBookforumNo matter how distant and essentially exotic Ferrante’s Naples, the unadulterated naturalistic psychology of her characters cuts very close to the bone. There are few writers who so acutely and seductively frame the eternally wounded, stupidly brave teenager inside a grown woman’s heart … There’s an unforgiving cruelty to the world that Ferrante releases her characters into. They are molested and beaten, but then transported by a crush. They’re never given any reason to look at love and sex as anything other than mercenary, and yet they let themselves desire. Lila and Elena vacillate between numbness and fever—falling victim to both … Ferrante’s writing is so unencumbered, so natural, and yet so lovely, brazen, and flush. The constancy of detail and the pacing that zips and skips then slows to a real-time crawl have an almost psychic effect, bringing you deeply into synchronicity with the discomforts and urgency of the characters’ emotions.