RaveThe Observer (UK)[Giordano Bruno] is a gift of a character, and SJ Parris clearly relishes his potential. Treachery is the fourth Bruno novel from Parris (the pseudonym of Observer writer Stephanie Merritt), and it’s pacy, intricate and frequently thrilling ... As with the previous titles, Treachery is full of historical detail and rich with atmosphere; Parris is good on the smells and the slop of the time, the grime and the stink, the midden heaps and the taint of the pox. Yet while she knows this world well, the research never drags things down or impedes the pleasingly knotty plot ... The murky backstreets of Elizabethan Plymouth are colourfully evoked, and Parris is skilled at blending characters drawn from history with those of her own invention, while saturating everything with her evident fascination with the politics of the period. And yet there’s a sense of water being trod, of writer and characters all looking towards the future, the next instalment and the dark fate that awaits Bruno.
PositiveThe GuardianZinovieff is skilled at evoking the shifting moral and social terrain—things were permissible in the 1970s that would be unacceptable now—while never letting us forget that none of that can be an excuse: Daphne was a child and Ralph was a grown adult. He is self-deluding and monstrously selfish, but Zinovieff finds ways of making him intermittently sympathetic before reminding you once more of all the ways he used Daphne for his gratification. Jane’s chapters, though featuring one of the more disturbing moments in an already queasy book, are not seamlessly integrated; her exchanges with Daphne are a little too on the nose for a novel that otherwise avoids absolutes. But the two main players are richly drawn, the strange, sad bond that still exists between them convincingly realized.
RaveThe GuardianDunthorne is a superbly economical writer – he crams an awful lot of plot into 173 pages – and one with a poet’s sensibility: a room is described as \'uncle-scented\'; a paper plate of baba ganoush is \'smooshed\' under a shoe. He is also properly funny. There are several snort-through-your-nose moments, including Ray’s encounter with a policewoman, when his every word exacerbates his predicament. But throughout, the novel’s comedy is always balanced by insight and poignancy.
RaveThe GuardianMaria Semple's witty, engaging novel takes the form of a collage of documents, emails, transcripts, liveblogs, FBI reports and magazine articles, all strung together by Bee Branch, a smart and articulate 15-year-old girl, but beneath this surface playfulness is a fascinating story of one woman's retreat from the world ... Bee's mother is Bernadette Fox, a renowned architect whose work ('She was built green before there was green') once earned her a MacArthur genius grant, but after the birth of her daughter she simply stops ... Then the family go on a trip to Antarctica, which appears to give Bernadette the opportunity she needs to erase herself further, to vanish entirely into the white ...she gets in a few good digs at Seattle, self-help culture and the American private school system, but she also handles the metaphoric weight of Bernadette's disappearing act with real skill ... The jokiness of tone and insistent kookiness can grate at times and the transition from the epistolary to a more conventional style of writing in the last third of the book is also something of a jolt, but as a portrait of motherhood as something emotionally draining and frustrating.