RaveTimes Literary Supplement (UK)Paradais is both more compact and more cogent [than Hurricane Season]. Rhythm and lexis work in tandem to produce a savage lyricism. The translator Sophie Hughes marvellously matches the author in her pursuit of a new cadence ... From its first sentence, in fact, Paradais feels rhythmically propelled towards a violent climax. Full stops occur rarely enough to seem meaningful, Melchor using long lines of unbroken narrative to reel in her terrible ending ... The author wants to understand the violence, not merely condemn it ... The novel’s language, meanwhile, is both high-flown and street-smart, strewn with Veracruzian slang, the odd made-up word and many eye-watering expletives ... Pressure builds remorselessly to a dreadful climax. It is an extraordinary feat of control, making Fernanda Melchor’s exceptional novel into a contemporary masterpiece.
Mario Vargas Llosa trans. by Adrian Nathan West
PositiveThe Times Literary Supplement (UK)The author leaves little room for ambiguity in his analysis, and Harsh Times often reads more like a disquisition than a novel. More complex is the structure, the narrative sliding backwards and forwards over three Guatemalan presidencies. This is a favourite technique of Vargas Llosa’s, and the effect here is cleverly disorientating, suggesting an inevitability to the cycle of disruption and violence. There are lots of names and very few dates, but the sinuous plot is not difficult to follow because the main themes are so often repeated. Vargas Llosa, who once lost a bid to become the president of Peru, knows how to communicate his ideas, and his intellectualism comes spritzed with humour. He also shares with his Latin American contemporaries, such as Gabriel García Márquez, a love of colour and hyperbole.
PositiveProspect (UK)It’s the combination of sincerity and strangeness that creates such a fertile territory for his stories. He likes to experiment with genre, and Klara and the Sun uses elements of both fable and dystopia to turn some familiar ideas on their heads ... What Klara and the other characters understand about the world overlaps and intersects in strange ways ... Tantalising developments happen at the edges of Klara’s experience. We’re privy to some of it—conversations about Atlas Brookings or Josie’s health—as well as, in one extraordinary aside, the revelation that Rick has been developing a flock of drones disguised as birds. We keep willing Ishiguro to train his focus on this view and he keeps turning us away from it ... Having very much enjoyed the first two thirds of Klara and the Sun, I was disappointed by an ending that veered too close to Oscar Wilde’s The Happy Prince—but perhaps disappointment was always part of the author’s plan.