PositiveThe New York Times Book Review[A] thought-provoking, discursive survey by Mona Chollet, a bright light of Francophone feminism ... Chollet has emerged as a quiet revolutionary, pushing back against the clichés and the patriarchy that shapes them ... Above all, In Defense of Witches explores what it means for a woman not to have children, and how women can find a positive identity without motherhood ... Although Chollet draws on French sources — Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex remains a foundational text — much of her vocabulary comes from the Anglosphere, popularizing American-style feminist thinking for French audiences. In Defense of Witches is a kind of French answer to Rebecca Traister’s 2016 All the Single Ladies, which Chollet cites admiringly ... Chollet’s style is accessible. She mixes personal experience with astute analysis of pop culture, leavened but not dominated by feminist theory. Her tone is one of self-aware curiosity ... Sophie R. Lewis’s translation into British English is crisp; the book itself would have benefited from a more rigorous edit ... Still, for all Chollet’s endeavors to reclaim the witch as a positive symbol, I frankly wish we could retire the role. Can’t we come up with a better term? Chollet’s entire project underscores the paucity of our vocabulary for describing womanhood outside biology or family.
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewIt’s a testament to Sands — his fiercely inquiring mind, his excellent researchers, the wealth of documents and his ability to make them come to life — that the book is so suspenseful ... In the end, The Ratline is about the Nazis who didn’t escape and their descendants ... It’s a reminder that Europe to this day is populated by survivors and perpetrators of World War II — a place of tangled family histories and selective denial, but also intermittent lucidity. This important book makes clear that the more difficult work of history may not be in tracking down the ones who tried to escape, but in confronting the ones who didn’t.
Michel Houellebecq, Trans. by Shaun Whiteside
PanThe AtlanticHouellebecq’s latest novel...contains a scathing critique of the European Union and imagines farmers blocking roadways and taking up arms against the state ... Although it’s a sophisticated work of literature written in a mournful key, Serotonin might as well have a jacket blurb from Steve Bannon. Or from a pharmaceutical company that manufactures antidepressants ... Houellebecq draws a not-so-subtle connection between body and state, between the declining health of the protagonist and the health of French society ... Say what you want about Houellebecq, and there’s a lot to say, but he’s definitely keeping the novel as a form relevant ... As with Houellebecq’s earlier novels, Serotonin is suffused with a nostalgic longing for an unattainable past ... Houellebecq has always been provocative, especially in his depictions of women. With Serotonin, this treatment flies decisively against the prevailing winds ... Though pretty terrible on women, Houellebecq is better on economics ... In Serotonin, power and powerlessness—emotional, sexual, political, economic—are big motifs ... Maybe [Houellebecq] is a visionary after all. And his is a grim vision indeed.
PositiveThe AtlanticHer third novel in seven years to be nominated for the Man Booker Prize, it confirms Levy’s rare—and ever more relevant—vision. In one short and sly book after another, she writes about characters navigating swerves of history and sexuality, and the social and personal rootlessness that accompanies both. If the themes sound weighty, Levy’s elliptical fiction is the opposite, thanks in part to her wry appreciation of dramatic ironies at work ... The Man Who Saw Everything, Levy’s most stylistically complex novel yet...veers from concrete realism to a fractured blend of dream and memory ... The emotional charge of this novel builds slowly...subvert[ing] genre fiction in a darkly comic way ... Levy’s lonely, eccentric characters acquire an unexpectedly emblematic dimension as dispossessed wanderers, a tribe in which Adler now claims a place.
RaveThe New York Review of BooksFerrante’s Naples books are essentially about knowledge—its possibilities and its limits. Intellectual knowledge, sexual knowledge, political knowledge. What kind of knowledge does it take to get by in this world? How do we attain that knowledge? … To those of us fully entangled in the Ferrante universe, participants in this Greek chorus, who have come to care about these characters as much as we care about some people in our actual lives, to those of us who have come to scrutinize the world and ourselves all the more intensely for having read these unforgettable books, her latest report could not have arrived soon enough.
Domenico Starnone, Trans. by Jhumpa Lahiri
RaveThe New York Times Book Review...the leanest, most understated and emotionally powerful novel by Domenico Starnone ... TiesThe Days of Abandonment, in other ways an interlocking puzzle piece or another voice in a larger conversation ... in Ties, no one has the last word. All the different truths are set before us, each given its due, each character fully realized, with the empathy and insight of a gifted novelist. Starnone’s prose here is highly skilled without calling attention to itself. In this novel, unlike some of his others, the cleverness doesn’t obstruct the emotional impact ... I cannot think of two novelists writing today whose recent books are in such clever and complicit conversation as those of Starnone and Ferrante.