MixediNews (UK)Rooney often juxtaposes the \'tableaux\' of her quartet, seen from afar, with hints at the cosmic or ancient world. The effect is akin to religious paintings in which the point isn’t the solidity or humanity of the figures, but the immaterial world beyond the picture plane ... however intentional, this cerebral quartet of characters didn’t move me to the extent Conversations With Friends’ Frances and Bobbi, or Normal People’s Marianne and Connell did. Their back stories feel awkwardly rather than artfully compressed. Their bodies are idealised to the point of saintly incorporeality ... Publishing may be a poisoned chalice, but bearing witness to each other redeems both Rooney’s characters and their fallen world ... Chronologically, this is Rooney’s third novel, and yet I can’t help but think of it as her sophomore offering, however accomplished ... This novel reads as an attempt to reconcile herself to this knowledge – deploying characteristic intelligence but with a guardedness that makes it harder to love. It’s a strange, imperfect book, the product of strange, far from perfect times.
Rebecca Dinerstein Knight
PanThe New York Times Book ReviewI came to Hex, Knight’s second novel, not knowing her previous work ... Meeting the novel on its own terms, then, without expectation, I struggled to gauge what exactly those terms were. There’s much that appears self-serious, even as it relishes the twee and bathetic. Nell might argue that, like a poison and its antidote, such opposites can be more alike than they are different; but it would take a better book than Hex to prove it ... As it is, the book’s wisest moments read like fortune cookies. The devotional format strains to contain a high volume of bit-part back stories and anecdotal asides that Nell, \'born observant,\' records in lieu of scientific data. The gratuitous descriptions choke...and it can be hard to see the characters through all their quirks...moving about as though with lifeless stage direction and sending up convoluted thought bubbles in their every interaction ... Even consistency is sacrificed for style ... Some paragraphs begin promisingly, only to end in sentences that make you wish she’d quit while she was ahead ... Despite what the book jacket promises, then, Hex is about as \'spooky\' as a creaky door that won’t stop creaking. If a spell is language that makes something happen, this one fails to make magic.
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewIt’s hard to tell where the book’s sympathies lie—it reads as contemporary satire with Shakespearean echoes—but the baby boomers’ own verdict is \'meshugas.\' Torday reveals the artificiality of all identity markers, from given names to generational monikers ... Many of the book’s best passages explore the collapsing of time—decaying leaves become \'a synaptic palimpsest\'—and from the old songs [protagonist] Mark and [ex-girlfriend] Cassie cover to the new names they take, the hybridization of past and present permeates the novel, complicating any division between \'us\' and \'them.\'