RaveThe Wall Street Journal... riveting ... This quirky, irreverent book, written in the manner of Mr. Brown’s bestselling Ninety-Nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret (2017), is a kaleidoscope of essays, anecdotes, party lists and personal reminiscence. You might think there was nothing more to be said about the Beatles, but Mr. Brown, a perceptive writer and a gifted satirist, makes familiar stories fresh. Along the way he unearths many fascinating tidbits ... a fascinating study of the cultural and social upheaval created by the band ... Mr. Brown has a keen eye for absurdist detail ... After reading this book I was inspired to listen to them again. I felt just as I had the first time: sheer joy.
Catherine Grace Katz
RaveThe Wall Street JournalSkillfully written and meticulously researched, it’s an extraordinary work that reveals the human side underlying the politics ... a thoroughly engrossing book, as acute about the contentious politics of the day as it is about the remarkable daughters who participated.
RaveThe Wall Street JournalYou can almost taste the food in Bill Buford’s Dirt, an engrossing, beautifully written memoir about his life as a cook in France ... Mr. Buford brings a novelistic approach to his story; he is both observer and participant. He’s an entertaining, often comical, raconteur ... His descriptions of his new city are vivid and evocative.
D. J. Taylor
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalProponents of today’s #MeToo movement will shudder ... Mr. Taylor’s account of her wild sex life, worthy of a Feydeau farce, is eye-popping. Skelton wrote five books, including a couple of memoirs that are, \'for sustained, score-settling bitchiness, . . . in a class of their own.\' True, but fun to read ... [an] nsightful and empathetic group biography.
RaveThe Wall Street JournalSimon Parkin...has written a thoroughly absorbing book, drawing upon archives and oral histories. It reads like a thriller, with its accounts of nerve-wracking battles, extreme weather, icebergs, and ships sunk in a matter of minutes ... Mr. Parkin brings into focus the heroic lives of Wrens whose arduous work was not only overlooked but also kept an \'official secret\' for 50 years. The women who played the game might never have boarded a ship, but their work saved the lives of countless who did.
MixedThe Wall Street JournalThe book is a love letter to the monumental institution where [Coulson] worked for more than 25 years, starting as an intern in the European Paintings department in 1991 ... Ms. Coulson must have spent quite a bit of time dreamily wandering the Met’s galleries letting her imagination run wild. Ghosts appear; furniture and paintings come alive, express their opinions and tell their stories ... Unfortunately, while Ms. Coulson’s erudition is impressive, her writing often descends into sentimentality. Her stories are original and insightful, but the prose is cluttered. Characters don’t merely speak; they chime in, sputter, quip, snort, chomp, shrug, squeak, quiver, screech, bark or warble. Nevertheless, as I wandered through the museum the other day, past tourists frenetically snapping pictures on their cellphones, I thought how Ms. Coulson’s book, for all its flaws, captured the spirit of the place and brought it magically to life.
RaveThe Wall Street Journal... an engrossing book, beautifully produced and illustrated with color photographs of paintings. At times it made me think of Watermark, Joseph Brodsky’s elegy to Venice, and W.G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn. Written in elegant, concise prose, it is a remarkable meditation on life, loss, mourning, exile, friendship and the power of art.
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalFinn brings to light an unfamiliar side of the Nazi regime ... both a fascinating character-portrait and an intriguing footnote to events that led up to the collapse of Nazi Germany. His book is as well-paced and exciting to read as a good thriller.
RaveThe Wall Street Journal...[a] lively and entertaining portrait ... Ms. Satow’s book draws the reader in from the start. Its cast of characters includes bellboys, chefs, managers, hotel owners and lawyers. She goes into obsessive detail about the staff, which, when the Plaza first opened, numbered 1,500 workers, including two men who dusted the chandeliers and another whose job was to stamp the hallway ashtrays with the Plaza logo ... Ms. Satow has written a superb history of how a once-magnificent property became its own Potemkin village, a grand luxury hotel on the outside, a hollow shell within.
MixedThe Wall Street Journal\"[Reichl] provides entertaining glimpses into life at Condé Nast ... The restaurant columns Ms. Reichl wrote were clever and incisive, but in this memoir, rhapsodic food descriptions can get the better of her ... Sometimes Ms. Reichl’s prose slides into romance-novel mode ... When Ms. Reichl sticks to reality, her story moves along in a lively fashion. Her description of how she and her staff took food down to Ground Zero after the attack on the World Trade Center is heart-rending ... Save Me the Plums is a lively but rather breathy re-creation of a great decade of magazine food writing, a genre now replaced by apps such as Instagram, where you can find pictures of towering ice-cream sundaes, avocado toast and even lobsters—boiled.\
Maylis De Kerangal Trans. by Sam Taylor
PositiveThe Wall Street Journal\" ...beautifully translated ... By the end of The Cook, apart from his love of food, I knew little more about Mauro as a character than I did of the anonymous subjects of those pictures. But I did understand something else. Ms. de Kerangal is fascinated by the way man tries to put a stamp on the physical world. Each of the three books of hers I’ve read (she’s written nine) centers on a process, but they are less about the transformation of a character than the emotional transformation of the reader, who, by learning how things work, comes to better understand the world. The Cook achieves this admirably, though the meal ended too abruptly, and I was left hungry for more.\
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalIt is a dark, disturbing story of patriarchy, oppression and sickness, alternating with a meticulously researched feminist history of the Jell-O business and its marketing campaigns directed at women ... Ms. Rowbottom’s accounts of her illness are harrowing and hard to read.
RaveThe Wall Street JournalProust’s Duchess, a hefty 715 pages, is rich with intimate details of the extraordinary lives behind the carefully crafted public images of its three heroines. Celebrated names are dropped like confetti over the pages. Liberally illustrated with photographs, the book includes many new findings in the archives of the families; there are 100-plus pages of back matter, including scholarly end notes and two recently discovered articles by Proust ... With an accumulation of intimate and telling detail that would have impressed Proust himself, Ms. Weber has done a remarkable job bringing to life a trio of remarkable women, and a world of culture, glamour and privilege swept away by World War I.
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalRitz & Escoffier, Luke Barr’s entertaining narrative history, reads like a novel (complete with cliff hangers and descriptions of the characters’ private thoughts) ... Mr. Barr has an eye for comic detail ... Mr. Barr has done a fine job evoking fin-de-siècle London and the characters of the two odd men who played such a pivotal role in that exhilarating time.
Lidia Matticchio Bastianich
RaveThe Wall Street Journal\"My American Dream: A Life of Love, Family, and Food is a beguiling memoir about Lidia Matticchio Bastianich’s path from a bucolic European childhood, abruptly cut short, to her remarkable present-day success as an award-winning television chef, cookbook author and restaurateur ... Ms. Bastianich writes about those early days with a buoyant, optimistic tone ... Food has been the mainstay of Ms. Bastianich’s life.\
RaveThe Wall Street JournalMr. Spring does a superb job of painting detailed portraits of his six protagonists. He has packed an enormous amount of material into this book, which is erudite, gossipy, entertaining and eminently readable.
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalMr. Taylor writes bracingly of life in the early ’60s, a time at once light-hearted and filled with dread—of polio, race riots and Russian missiles ... An underlying nostalgia, indeed melancholia, pervades Hue and Cry. Trying to overcome Asperger’s in adolescence Mr. Taylor learned to make eye contact and modulate his voice. Later, in college, he studied the popular kids and built himself 'a Frankenstein monster from the parts I liked best about them—a persona very nearly the opposite of who I was when alone.' Mr. Taylor tries to come to grips with himself and his self-image, and to understand how to differentiate emotional realities from actual experience. Hue and Cry is an elegantly written book, erudite, perceptive and at times painfully candid.
Herman Koch, Translated by Sam Garrett
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalIt's fast-paced and riveting. Written in cool, detached prose (deftly translated from the Dutch by Sam Garrett), The Dinner is as theatrical and dramatic as a well-crafted play. It's also nasty. It starts off as social satire but shifts gears, and you find yourself in the middle of a horror story ... Paul, the narrator, is a former high-school history teacher who, we are told, has been placed on 'non-active' status ... Gradually we realize that Paul, with his mounting bile and smoldering resentments, is not a reliable narrator. He has a history of violent outbursts and takes medication to control them ... Issues of morality, responsibility and punishment are raised along the way, and a Pinteresque menace lurks under the surface ... In the end, the book sits on the digestion less like an over-indulgent 'fine dining' experience than Chinese food, which, as we all know, leaves you feeling hungry a couple of hours later.
RaveThe Wall Street JournalThe truth is that Elena is no less trapped by her life than Lila is, but she is loath to admit it. Elena's husband is a pedantic bore and a terrible lover. But when Elena's first child is born after an atrocious labor, she lies to Lila, telling her that it was a wonderful experience … While Ms. Ferrante sees her characters through class war, student revolution, and clashes between communists and neo-fascists, her focus is on their interior lives. Her novels present an intimate, often startlingly frank portrait of a friendship between two women who are struggling in the face of rapidly changing sexual politics to break from the old ways and reinvent themselves on their own terms.
RaveThe Wall Street Journal... a marvelous, clear-eyed memoir about his eccentric family but especially about his glamorous but dangerously possessive Aunt Hank ... The Mighty Franks develops an almost thriller-like pace as Michael begins to draw away from his increasingly desperate aunt ... [a] beautifully written book.
PanThe Wall Street JournalWas Monroe’s time in New York really a 'year of joy,' as the book’s subtitle has it? Therapy five times a week as required by Strasberg doesn’t sound like a barrel of laughs ... Throughout her biography Ms. Winder stresses that Monroe was an intense reader. Why, even at the beach, she was improving her mind. 'She’d throw down her towel and sink into Ulysses.' The rest of us huddle under our umbrellas with books like this one and cringe.
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalWe tend to think of the 1950s as a puritanical era. For Patricia Bosworth—a one-time actress and the biographer of Montgomery Clift, Diane Arbus and Marlon Brando—they were anything but. Her life was a dramatic saga of ambition, sex, love, affairs, heartbreak and abortion. She courageously reveals it all in The Men in My Life ... The sexual revolution and feminism would come along and change everything. But before they did, women like Patricia Bosworth refused to conform.
Roald Dahl, Ed. by Donald Sturrock
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalFrom early on, the letters show the darkly comic, subversive writing that would make Dahl famous ... Missing from Dahl’s letters is virtually any discussion of sex, which is odd given his openness about everything else ... Without her as his correspondent, he might never have become a writer. Alas, we never get to hear from Sofie.
RaveThe Wall Street Journal...[a] captivating memoir ... Ms. Tynan has written a moving, candid and often hilarious account of her tumultuous childhood in England and New York in the 1950s and ’60s ... Clothes are the warp and weave of “Wear and Tear.” Each chapter is cleverly organized around an item of dress.
PositiveThe Wall Street Journal...[a] riviting book ... [Faludi] does a remarkable job tracking down the truth about her father, a person of multiple and contradictory identities. The book’s title, In the Darkroom, has a double meaning. It refers to the job her father held altering images in a Manhattan photo lab and to the dark, mysterious side of her father’s volatile personality ... Ms. Faludi unfolds her father’s story like the plot of a detective novel. 'I had cast myself as a posse of one, tracking my father’s many selves to their secret recesses,' she writes. She interviews her father’s transgender friends in Hungary, wades through stacks of files and photograph albums in her house, and visits family relatives in Israel where she discovers more long-hidden information.
MixedThe Wall Street JournalMr. Bryson wears his learning lightly. He has published over a dozen books on a wide range of topics, from Shakespeare to a history of science. But in his new book he’s a bit of a curmudgeon, citing a wide range of irritants from bad grammar to moronic salespeople and litter.