RaveThe Times (UK)Guez’s novel won the Prix Renaudot in his native France in 2017. Little wonder; it is a chilling tale, one that is impossible to forget. It shocks too — so many people knew, must have known, who Mengele was and where he lived, yet he escaped the hangman’s noose and Mossad’s bullet ... Guez’s novel cuts him down to size, showing him as a petulant, obsessive and petty man with \'a small, hard soul\'.
RaveThe Times (UK)... gloriously death-obsessed ... It is bracingly necromaniac, but Holleran has a puckishly morbid sense of humour ... As well as flashes of humour, Holleran, who will be 80 next year, is a keen-eyed observer...The result is a touching, honest, unafraid, almost uplifting exploration of ageing.
PositiveThe Times (UK)... studded with arresting facts ... Flyn has a lovely turn of phrase and is at her best describing what she sees ... Sometimes, though, the Curse of the Nature Writer strikes and an annoying feyness takes hold. She becomes bizarrely precious when talking about urban blight in Detroit ... fascinating and brain-energising. It is full of detail and colour that sends one googling, to look up pictures and find out more. It is also an optimistic book ... While Flyn is at pains to say that we mustn’t stop the fight against man-made climate change or the pillaging of the wild, she also suggests that they show that nature, with time, can rebound. These \'forbidden experiments\' of spontaneous rewilding \'are torches burning in a darkened landscape\'. I’ll cling to that bit of unfashionable hope.
PositiveThe Times (UK)Though President Trump seems to have driven America mad, even his supporters, Buckley has kept his head and his sense of humour. He has found that the best way to deal with the dysfunction and distemper of the Trump years is to turn the president into a comic character for his new novel. The verdict? Trump makes great copy in fact or fiction ... It’s all good fun at the expense of America, although I cannot claim to have been reduced to tears of laughter. There are some misfires, but there are also some fine jokes ... Wisely, Buckley has played this novel for laughs rather than trying to make satirical points. Satire cannot compete with the outlandish reality of the Trump years.
Michael Farris Smith
RaveThe Times (UK)Farris Smith isn’t frightened to go dark — and go dark early ... If you’re a fan of Southern or Rural Noir — James Lee Burke, Daniel Woodrell, Donald Ray Pollock, the literary children of Flannery O’Connor — you’ll feel uncomfortably at home ... Blackwood has a creeping menace to it that grabs you from the beginning and doesn’t let up ... I enjoyed Blackwood so much that I picked up Farris Smith’s last two novels ... Though Farris Smith has five novels under his belt, he is little known in Britain. That ought to change: let some Mississippian mayhem, murder and misery into your lives.
RaveThe Times (UK)Why review it, if it doesn’t provide a new angle on a well-trodden corner of British history? Because it also happens to be a particularly gripping read, written with bounce and brio. Larson pulls together vivid vignettes — some moving, some amusing, a few grim — to create a collage of what it was like to be alive in Britain at this time, and especially what it was like to be around Churchill ... Larson has a good eye for a stunning visual image, an evocative quote ... Although a dab hand at novelistic flourishes and clearly an admirer of Churchill’s grandiloquence and bigness of spirit, Larson also knows the power of understatement.
John Le Carre
PositiveThe Times (UK)... a fine piece of storytelling. It is a neat, compact, slow-burning tale with just the right amount of twisting and turning and misdirection. For Le Carré fans, it has the world-weary atmosphere that make his thrillers so evocative, brought to life in the odd telling detail ... The only clues that it was published in the week of his 88th birthday is the dialogue can be rather dated and his lack of interest in high-tech espionage. The old spycraft still reigns supreme ... Divided loyalties, uncertain motives, Russian agents, bureaucratic infighting, jaded spies, tatty offices — all of the things you want and expect from a high-quality Le Carré thriller are here.
RaveThe Times (UK)The focus of Promise Me You’ll Shoot Yourself is not on those who were the most culpable for the evils of Nazi Germany. Rather, it looks at the many ordinary Germans who took their lives, or contemplated doing so, during the last days of the Third Reich. It’s a remarkable book — grim and fascinating. Florian Huber, a German documentary-maker, tells the story well. He quotes liberally from diaries, memoirs and other eyewitness accounts to describe the great death urge that overtook Germany.
PositiveThe Times (UK)... a warm-hearted and witty mix of Jack Kerouac’s On The Road and George Orwell’s Down and Out In Paris and London. If you ever needed a manual for being a \'civilised tramp\', as Kaldheim describes his old self, you’d do well to study this book ... Kaldheim is disarmingly honest about his failings ... Kaldheim is a good guide to the psychology of the boozer ... it’s not a depressing or angry read. Rather, he is a witty observer; he took notes at the time that he has no doubt embellished, 30 years later in this his first book ... Kaldheim does not rail at Mommy and Daddy or society or consumerism or capitalism. Nor does he finger-wag or preach ... Instead, he recalls the many little acts of kindness and generosity — from strangers, priests, fellow tramps, welfare officers — that helped him back into the mainstream after his tramps life.
PositiveThe Times (UK)\"Dyer has a lot of fun ... There are plenty of decent quips ... Ultimately, we know that Where Eagles Dare is a piece of gripping, stirring silliness — and that this book is in on the joke. Nonetheless, Dyer does leave a big thought lingering — those wet Sunday afternoons spent watching old war films have helped to shape our sense of self, our national memory.\
Angela Steidele Trans. by Katy Derbyshire
MixedThe Times (UK)Here’s the problem with this often fascinating book about a remarkable woman: Lister left too many words. She scribbled 750 a day on everything from her horizontal fumblings to Prussia’s standing in the world, from the care of her toenails to the departure time of stagecoaches. ... The much quoted detail, the often mundane domestic minutiae about money problems, takes the energy out of the story at various points. I could have done with more of Steidele’s wry observations than what she calls \'the tangled haystack of information\'. Better still, imagine what a novelist such as Sarah Waters would do, free from the constraints of nonfiction.
PositiveThe TimesIf there was a prize for the most evocative or salacious chapter headings, then Peter Ackroyd’s new book, Queer City, would be the undisputed victor ... Ackroyd has a good ear for doggerel and popular ballads ... [Ackroyd is] strongest on how homosexuals were seen in literature ... throughout there is plenty of Ackroydian wit.
Kirk Wallace Johnson
PositiveThe TimesIt is all a bit mad. Johnson, a wonderfully assured writer, takes us on a curious journey into the past ... By taking us into a strange world of militant hobbyists, Johnson has enriched my store of useless knowledge. The salmon, for instance, is a bit of a bruiser — \'Salmon don’t lunge at an angler’s fly because it resembles an insect: they attack it because it’s a foreign object in the place where they’ve just buried their eggs.\' The Feather Thief proves that the most obscure, \'candy-ass\' activities can be made interesting for the general reader. Johnson makes his tale as vivid and arresting as a quetzal’s tail.