MixedThe Straits TimesKing has produced a fascinatingly horrible psychological thriller. There is an addictive quality to the story, if only because you want to see exactly how deep the rot goes ... The novel delves into the dark consequences of inherited trauma and generational abuse...It is unfortunate that it also relies on an exoticised vision of Singapore, refracted through May\'s twisted memories and Lily\'s tourist perspective...Such inconsistencies may be of little note to an international readership, but for Singaporeans, it may leave a sour taste in the mouth.
MixedStraits TimesThe collection is less selective than exhaustive. Despite the urgency evoked by its title, one gains few fresh revelations from these pieces ... Rather, reading them is more like attending a dinner party where a charming conversationalist holds court. Sometimes, she rambles and you find yourself wondering: What were we talking about again? But she is being so witty about it that you hardly mind. Most enjoyable are the excursions into her own writerly past.
PositiveThe Straits TimesThe narrative dances in and out of the perspectives of various tangentially connected characters, an experience akin to scrolling through social media posts ... What Egan is creating here is a network novel, driven not by the progression of a plot, but by the links among its characters ... Egan is cognisant of the way social media has reshaped the essence of story, reducing it to a series of brief snapshots that vanish after a day ... She handles her big ideas with a light touch. She has a knack for making things look effortless.
MixedThe Straits Times (SING)The novel, full of arborescent meanderings, grasps at ecological transcendence, exploring the effects that war has not just on humans but also the natural world. But it muddles this effort with its anthropomorphising of the fig tree, a narrator prone to rambling exposition, gossip and maudlin outbursts. Though it harps on the incompatibility of arboreal time and human time, it is sentimentally anthropocentric in its outlook. If there is one thing Shafak unfailingly excels at, it is scene-setting. Her portrait of Cyprus seems to spring off the page in all its fresh beauty ... She is especially good with food ... In such passages does the sap of the story begin to flow, thick with loss and love.
John Le Carré
PositiveThe Straits Times (SING)The world of the bookshop and its provincial neighbourhood is sketched in marvellous detail; so, too, is the world of the Proctors, an upper-class family of spies in whose household domesticity and tradecraft nestle comfortably ... If one were looking for the perfect novel with which to send off le Carre, Silverview is not it. It is weighted in favour of its front half and comes up light at the end. Yet, it contains moments of such brilliance, such displays of le Carre\'s signature wit and nuance, that you want to put it down with a wry chuckle ... Silverview is, to borrow a line from its ending, \'content, if not radiant\' ... Le Carre may be off the top of his game here, but one is still reminded how splendid a player he was.
PositiveThe Straits Times (SING)\"... there is a certain voyeuristic aspect to the narrative, which for the most part follows the characters around like a film camera, reporting the minute details of their movements and interactions while granting no access to their inner thoughts. What the reader does glean is through their phone calls and messages, the checking of social media and—most revelatory of all—the online correspondence between Alice and Eileen ... an illuminating epistolary depiction of friendship. This is a novel of profound interiority, all the more remarkable for being crafted mostly out of detached exteriority. In the rare instance when it enters a character\'s mind, the effect is marvellous.
RaveThe Straits Times (SING)... a stylish, urbane take on hard-boiled crime fiction in the vein of American novelists Cornell Woolrich or W.R. Burnett ... If there is a weak part to this story, it is the bond between Carney and Freddie, upon which much of the plot hinges, but which never feels convincing enough to warrant the risks Carney takes for his cousin. One is easily distracted from this, however, by the novel\'s colourful cast ... The way Whitehead maps the chameleonic, changing networks of the city onto the psyche of his ambitious protagonist is nothing short of masterful.
Haruki Murakami, Trans. by Philip Gabriel
MixedThe Straits Times (SING)... classic Murakami ... Murakami is clearly coasting with these fleeting, enigmatic stories, about which there is nothing very singular. If they were a record, you could put it on in the background, something vaguely charming to while away the time until the next big hit comes along.
RaveThe Straits Times... is, on one level, a simple story about a robot, a girl and the sun. Yet it is constructed so precisely and so artlessly that its simplicity is profoundly moving ... the way she arrives at its answer is so tenderly, powerfully human-like that it breaks the heart - that unreachable part inside every person that is the hardest to learn.
PositiveThe Straits Times (SING)With Summer... she goes out in a blaze of glory ... Smith packs so much into Summer that it is a marvel it gets off the ground, but it does. She weaves together the crises of the world—not just the urgent, like the pandemic, but also the older, deeper crises of xenophobia, migration and climate change. She shows them to be an interlocked collage, and does so with wit and warmth ... Her quartet has been that rare thing: a work of art that has kept pace with the times that forged it. I had thought it would end in the heat of apocalypse, but instead I am reminded of how much light there is in the world.