MixedThe Times Literary Supplement (UK)A Shock is distinguished from Ridgway’s earlier efforts by a marked interest in socialist politics, which sits alongside his typically sensitive expositions of the London queer scene ... A Shock’s separate storylines often fail to intersect, yet a progressive political discourse runs through each of them. While the novel’s form resists unity, its themes gesture towards it ... Ridgway’s narration seems to falter when his characters are alone, becoming sparse, repetitive, monochromatic, while his group scenes remain varied and energetic. While this technique accords with the novel’s conceptual framework, it makes the quality of the prose uneven. Ridgway’s depictions of isolation are a slog ... In the end, no master narrative is sufficiently powerful to turn the subtle correspondences between the chapters into one coherent arc ... Whether you read this lack of solidarity as a form of healthy scepticism or a political retreat, on a narrative level the result is frustration and flatness.
PositiveThe Times Literary Supplement (UK)Ryan is too inventive a craftsman to give us what we expect ... Such narrative misdirection instils a wariness in the reader: every detail is provisional, no viewpoint absolute. Reading Ryan’s lithe prose, with its flowing, vernacular rhythms, we therefore retain a constant criticality, even when the author himself seems to abandon it. Is, we wonder, the idealized relationship between Moll and Ellen as pure as it seems, given their gaping power imbalance? And are the problems in Moll and Alexander’s marriage being replayed in Joshua’s somewhat shmaltzified love-life? Ryan does not address these questions, but his sharp and probing novel gives us the resources to ask them.
RaveThe Times Literary Supplement (UK)... [a] stirring tale of recessionary Ireland...giving Ireland’s recent history the roiling atmosphere of a fever dream ... Hughes’s writing has an austerity that befits its subject matter. But it also has a dry, dark humour that recalls figures such as Samuel Beckett, J. M. Synge and Brian Friel—all referenced throughout the book. Not only does the author’s wit enliven this bleak narrative, it stands at its thematic centre ... as anyone familiar with the Irish literary canon will know, one’s heritage becomes more powerful, inescapable, even oppressive, precisely when it is eclipsed. The Wild Laughter meditates on this dialectic of paternity, asking whether we can anchor ourselves in the past without being consumed by it. Taking its cues from a grand comedic tradition, yet asserting its originality with every line, Caoilinn Hughes’s prose answers that question resoundingly in the affirmative.
RaveThe Times Literary Supplement (UK)As their hopes of rescue fade, these characters begin to examine the lives they left behind, recovering distant memories and confronting past traumas. They also build a friendship that is artfully portrayed by Lynch, who resists the temptation to romanticize their connection, instead spotlighting its volatility, fractiousness and intensity ... Almost every line, pared down to its essential components, seems cut short by an omission, haunted by something unsaid. Large gaps between the paragraphs entrench this sense of pervasive silence. At times such muteness feels like it’s been lifted straight from Beckett—without the humour and self-consciousness. But when Beyond the Sea evades this derivative modernist register, its pages are alive with elegance and insight.