RaveOn the Seawall... fifteen scintillating short stories ... reflect his unceasing drive to hone his craft. The work confirms [Tuten\'s] reputation as a master of the genre at age 86 ... Tuten dazzles like the best of Jhumpa Lahiri, Alice Munro, and George Saunders. Here, with The Bar at Twilight he is at the pinnacle of his craft.
RaveLos Angeles Review of BooksIn his brilliant cultural history...Brownstein drops enough names to fill the once-massive Los Angeles phone book (remember those?), elicits memorable moments from several entertainment industries, and recalls political machinations across decades ... Rock Me on the Water segues seamlessly between movies, music, and television, often adding politics to the mix ... Brownstein’s coverage of the second half of 1974 sometimes repeats information about people and events, as might be expected in such a dense, lengthy study, but he also underscores \'new faces, new voices, and new stories\' on the ever-changing horizon.
RaveLos Angeles Review of BooksWelcome to Man Booker Prize winner George Saunders’s classroom at Syracuse University ... As a reader (and perhaps an aspiring short story writer), you can audit the seminar for no credit (at no cost except for the price of the book in whatever format you choose), with his exemplary lessons and assignments ... The book is organized uniquely, like a syllabus. There are assigned readings of stories (included in the text), lectures on the narratives, and suggestions for writing exercises ... It does not, however, carry the heavy weight of an academic tome. Saunders often expounds with personal, sometimes witty, observations that blend the tone of literary criticism with that of life’s lessons ... Saunders is sometimes too self-deprecating in asides about his talents and skills ... He frequently disparages himself as a \'lesser writer.\' He may not be a Chekhov, Tolstoy, Turgenev, or Gogol, but he is a George Saunders, and a damn good one ... these are minor nits to pick in an otherwise overwhelmingly constructive book, in which Saunders offers us an indispensable list of laws for writers ... Bottom line: Who is A Swim in a Pond in the Rain for? Anyone who reads and admires short stories or might aspire to writing one — or better ones.
RaveThe Washington Independent Review of BooksAs equally idiosyncratic and iconoclastic as [Backman\'s] debut, it is an outrageously hilarious, flawless novel ... Backman is sly. Nothing is as random nor as obvious as it appears. While he focuses on the current series of curious events in the apartment, he buttresses the character-driven plot with numerous backstories that link a bridge, suicides, and a peculiar drawing of a frog, a monkey, and an elk ... Then, just when it seems as though everything has been sorted out, he turns it all topsy-turvy with a stunning revelation that would be a major spoiler to disclose. It would also ruin the fun of discovery ... Backman juggles all of this with exquisite ease and his usual mellifluous style and grace. In the midst of the humor, he manages to inject poignant observations about life and death; love and marriage; parenting and divorce; and social and economic stress ... The resolution, when it comes, is unexpected but perfect. Justice is served. Anxious People is a joy to experience, an absurdist black dramedy and lasting treasure for Backman fans.
RaveThe Washington Independent Review of Books... [a] blistering bildungsroman ... This exuberant novel underscores the idea that \'the truth is difficult\' and concludes with scalding truths about families and friends. As she did with her earlier heroines, Lenù and Lila, in My Brilliant Friend, Ferrante here presents another audacious character with more story to tell. Hopefully, The Lying Life of Adults augurs an auspicious start to another rewarding franchise.
RaveThe Washington Independent Review of Books... stunning ... What’s not to like about a Roddy Doyle novel? ... The 10-hour binge in Love leaves Davy and Joe hammered. But it leaves the reader with the feeling that love is complicated and simple at the same time.
PositiveWashington Independent Review of BooksIndelible stories in earlier collections...demonstrate Ford’s keen eye for regional details, as underscored here. Recurrent themes often focus on marginalized characters dealing with personal and professional breakdowns. Throughout all is a dark humor and incisive philosophical spirit that perpetuates an addictive habit for the reader ... The tonal range of the stories here is not wide. It is most often bitter and biting. But the scope of Ford’s sympathetic vision of battered humanity tempers the melancholy nature of a life endured with the compassionate understanding of a life lived.
RaveThe Washington Independent Review of Books... seductive ... reads like a memory play ... Jedrowski’s exquisite novel vividly traces the life of immigrant Ludwik Glowacki ... Author Jedrowski does a superb job of delineating the painful necessity of choice, of vacillating between social and individual freedom. Ludwik’s melancholy memories make an indelible impression.
Mieko Kawakami, trans. by Sam Bett and David Boyd
RaveOn the SeawallThe title is both literal and metaphorical. There are breasts (natural and enhanced) and eggs (chicken and human). But above all, the novel presents an unusual and disarming approach to what women want — or at least what three particular Japanese women want while underscoring the differences between their desires and notions of happiness ... The closest the novel comes to a polemic is when her two passions converge. She is advised to \'write about yourself … about your sexuality, your finances, your emotions… if you can get pregnant on your own and become a mother — or even if you can’t — but if you write about everything that happens in the process, do you have any idea how much that would mean to so many women?\' She’s encouraged to \'give women something real. Real hope. Precedent. Empowerment. You don’t need a partner. A woman can make the decision to have a child and go through with it alone.\' And that’s what Natsuko does. In essence, Breasts and Eggs is that book.
RaveThe Washington Independent Review of Books... a brilliant historical novel steeped in the heady atmosphere of the 16th century ... this is not just a book about Hamnet’s death. It is also a startling revelation about the crippling effects of grief and the arcane sources of creativity. It is about the mystery and magnificence of the family bond. Not just any family — the family Shakespeare ... O’Farrell gives vivid dimension to the story by flashing back to the time William and Agnes met ... What O’Farrell has done is incredible. She has memorialized a family. The novel is the thing in which she catches the conscience of the reader. This is the kind of dazzling novel to put in everyone’s hands, to tell everyone to read. It is a flawless achievement. Every sentence is silk; every detail vibrant; every character pulsates ... In the overwhelming, heartbreaking conclusion of Hamnet, the author collects all the silences, all the sufferings, all the ghosts into a compelling resolution to tell the Shakespearean story. She breathes life into the boy who fell down the stairs.
RaveThe National Book Review... beguiling ... reads like an extended prose version of a Robert Browning dramatic monologue ... entertaining and engrossing. It seems so real that a reader might expect to see photographs. The story is grounded in reality but fabricated on the \'cardboard, greasepaint, and panic\' of the theater world. The gravitas of the title is deeply rooted in the complicated, never-ending generational ties between mother and daughter. This is the stellar must-read novel of the year.
Emily St. John Mandel
RaveWashington Independent Review of Books... a richly rewarding take on the fallout of fraudulent financial schemes and the unintended consequences that seep into the lives tarnished by them ... a breathtaking narrative that shuttles forward and backward in time and bounces geographically ... past, present, and future will collide and converge in ways that delight readers and could leave them feeling a little shocked. The stunning appeal of The Glass Hotel is how author Mandel uses overlapping scenes like a split screen and artfully replays previous moments until the novel circles back on itself to a haunting revelation in 2018.
PositiveThe Washington Independent Review of BooksAt one point, Barnes pellucidly defines biography as \'a collection of holes tied together with string.\' It is a brilliant image. Some holes are emptier than others. He often cites the biographer’s refrain, \'We cannot know,\' for facts he must surmise ... The Man in the Red Coat is replete with more than enough string. It moves effortlessly from the frivolity of [a] shopping spree into intellectual diversions about the \'hectic, violent, narcissistic and neurotic\' Belle Epoque. There are engaging anecdotes about bullets and duels, dandyism and decadence, art and literature, politics and religion. Barnes’ version of \'factual certainties and confident hypotheses\' is number one with a bullet.
PositiveThe Washington Independent Review of Books... provocative ... Beams excels in the details of this prescription. The sections on symptoms and their causes expose archaic misinformation and enforced misogyny ... Despite its finely wrought prose and incisive dialogue, The Illness Lesson is often overburdened by its obvious message and its telegraphed plot. Nevertheless, it is a scathing indictment of early toxic masculinity, a measured diatribe against male-dominated medical and educational institutions ... Ultimately, it is a blistering condemnation of a patriarchal society which would deter the empowerment of independent female thinking. It also suggests that sometimes a bird is just a bird. Except when it’s not.
Therese Anne Fowler
MixedWashington Independent Review of BooksA Good Neighborhood is neither a police procedural nor a legal thriller. It’s more of a cautionary tale of tragedy foretold ... The novel wants to be about the explosive clash between class and race. But it is more about navigating a faulty criminal-justice system A Good Neighborhood is noteworthy but flawed. It attempts to deal with the hot-button issues of these divided times in hopes of finding ecological and social harmony. It might have been a stronger novel if that fence had been built at the beginning. The healing could have started then ... Instead, to turn another Shakespearean phrase, for want of a tree a life is lost. Manipulating characters to serve a tired plot (with forced literary references) does little to provide the catharsis promised by the story’s opening chorus.
RaveThe Washington Independent Review of Books... an astonishingly vibrant, layered narrative ... the most distinctive novel of the year ... is its own testament to the resplendent lives of 12 resilient women in a very modern Britain ... a structure that pulls the reader in immediately, seizing both the intellect and the emotions as the narrative unfolds. It is like reading Virginia Woolf, Henry James, and James Joyce simultaneously ... Superlatives pale in the shadow of the monumental achievement of Girl, Woman, Other. Few adjectives suffice. It’s hard not to overpraise this brilliant novel. Evaristo’s verbal acrobatics do things language shouldn’t be able to do. It’s a Cirque du Soleil of fiction ... Readers should put down whatever book they’re reading and immerse themselves in this one. Bernardine Evaristo is the writer of the year. Girl, Woman, Other is the book of the decade.
PositiveThe National Book Review... electrifyingly bizarre ... as unnerving as his recent short story collection, Baby, You’re Gonna Be Mine (2018) ... The resolution may seem a bit pat. Regardless, Nothing To See Here proves that money, privilege, and politics don’t always outweigh old-fashioned values. Though there is a certain Wilson trademark of quirkiness and a dark sense of humor, it finally leads to revealing the new normal in contemporary parenting.
PositiveMystery SceneSpeed on steroids, an adrenaline-pumped novel so heavily plotted that it is virtually impossible to hold back spoilers ... The parallel narrative lines converge as the countdown continues right up to the climactic last seconds. Finally, the clock runs out, but not before Marrs presents a few more surprises in the last big reveal. Some readers will have worked out the identity of the hacker early on. Nevertheless, The Passengers has a properly satisfying, head-spinning conclusion.
RaveThe Washington Independent Review of BooksTracy Chevalier knows her history and she knows how to incorporate it flawlessly into an engaging narrative ... Chevalier subtly weaves their captivating story toward a satisfying conclusion that makes A Single Thread into a singular sensation.
RaveThe Washington Independent Review of BooksAtwood, as expected, deftly develops the numerous, carefully foreshadowed plot surprises with her saber-sharp prose and clever wit ... exemplary cautionary tales of a brilliantly imagined world that is all too real. Each stands alone, but reading The Handmaid’s Tale first informs The Testaments. Together, they are a remarkable diptych of disaster, a monumental achievement by a revered writer. They are a blaring warning for what might happen here ... an ideal sequel to an already perfect novel. Its brilliance is that it manages to tell an absorbing story at the same time it provides a haunting and chilling lesson for the world today.
PositiveThe Washington Independent Review of Books... intoxicating ... an alluring, ardent study of fathers and sons and their lovers ... eaders anticipating an Elio/Oliver reunion are rewarded as Aciman comes full circle.
RaveThe National Book Review... some [stories] are more invigorating than others. All, however, display her shimmering prose, her penchant for cogent observations, and her fondness for metaphors. They are lit—in every sense of the word—drunk with spot-on characterization, and, in the new vernacular, exciting narratives set in a variety of settings. They challenge the reader to pay attention ... The familiar bear re-reading; the new ones offer various voices and perspectives. The best of them are inviting, effective, and successful ... Smith’s grand gift to readers. What she accomplishes over the range of the nineteen stories is astonishing. She blinds them with dazzling prose and breaks their hearts with richly enhanced characters.
RavePittsburgh Post-GazetteMs. Hoffman’s remarkable achievement is her innate ability to balance large events of history with intimate personal stories. This includes unforgettable vignettes of many secondary characters ... The World That We Knew is constantly imbued with the terrifying atmosphere of impending doom. But it is also suffused with the everlasting hope of survival grounded in the profound desire for enduring love. Ms. Hoffman conjures an alluring novel that lingers long after it’s read.
PositiveThe National Book ReviewStrout vividly conveys the delicate balance that exists between the desire to leave home and the desperate need to return in order to discover the everlasting trauma of memory. Olive, Again is a formidable American narrative.
RaveThe Washington Independent Review of Books... incandescent ... Brodeur’s scintillating, irresistible memoir that often reads more like compulsive fiction than an autobiographical account of more than 40 years ... There is very little to fault about this unvarnished memoir. But there is one slight reservation. In a somewhat peculiar disclaimer in an author’s note, Brodeur says she has \'changed the names of everyone in the book except for my parents, Malabar and Paul, and myself.\' For what purpose? A quick internet search of her name identifies all the other parties in the story. And, in an acknowledgement, she names other names. Since Wild Game appears to be about full disclosure, it seems disingenuous not to be transparent with identities ... Otherwise, Wild Game is a must-read, a peek into a privileged and tarnished life. It is an audacious narrative likely to rivet readers’ attention.
RaveWashington Independent Review of BooksStephen Chbosky’s heart-pounding Imaginary Friend begins with a warning: \'Don’t leave the street.\' It might just as well begin with a warning to the reader: \'Don’t start reading this book. You won’t be able to stop.\' Or, at least: \'Do not read it at night.\'...[Chbosky] has reinvented the literary horror novel ... With Imaginary Friend, Stephen Chbosky has written another classic, setting a new high watermark for fantasy horror. It is the greatest story ever told of love and salvation in which a little child shall save them. It is as spine-tinglingly sinister as any Stephen King tome, as ghastly as any ghost story by Peter Straub, as gothic as any Neil Gaiman title. It should become a horror perennial, taken out at Halloween and Christmas or any other time a reader wants a proper fright. It is the scariest novel of the year, a menacing book for all seasons.
PositiveThe Washington Independent Review of BooksThere is a great deal of mordant memory in Chances Are… In his admirably inimitable fashion, Russo, with a patently clean, direct style and acerbic wit, captures the lost innocence of idyllic youth, the grand delusions of a pastoral collegiate experience, and the constant moral itch of lingering guilt ... His cogent deftness at acute observation and critical social commentary underscores how the four friends are chastened by life’s perplexing exigencies and character-defining events.
RaveThe Los Angeles Review of BooksComparisons to Kesey’s classic One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest are unavoidable., but not simply because of the easy comparisons with the settings ... One of the remarkable achievements of Rabbits for Food is how Kirshenbaum manages to be clever in the midst of overwhelming despair. Because of her wit, the patently dour subject is not depressing; there is a great deal of humor, compassion, and sensitivity for the material. Readers will quickly commit to this extraordinary novel. Laser-sharp prose, compelling observations, and an engaging, sympathetic central figure conspire to make it a page-turner. Rabbits for Food is an impressive achievement. It should be read as soon as possible.
PositiveThe Washington Independent Review of Books... captivating ... a little complicated. It’s also a rather simple, familiar plot with a cunning twist on the romantic triangle ... Though McEwan’s variant world is 1982, the implication is that the future is now.
RaveThe Washington Independent Review of Books... transcendent. It surpasses the ordinary boundaries of what could be a trite exploration of love gone sour. Instead, it rises above sentimentality to a triumphant examination of history, politics, literature, and the pall and sorrow of grief ... The nail-biting conclusion of The Bookshop of the Broken Hearted subsumes catastrophe. Its exultant resolution underscores the optimistic belief that \'the past exerts itself to influence the future.\' Hillman’s vivid observations of regional details, keen perceptions of local customs, absorbing storyline, and sympathetic characters make the novel impossible to put down.
Maxim Osipov, Trans. by Alex Fleming and Anne Marie Jackson
RaveWorld Literature TodayThe twelve scintillating short stories in Rock, Paper, Scissors and Other Stories, the first English collection by cardiologist Maxim Osipov, are brilliant. Not one disappoints. Osipov’s style and subjects are reminiscent of Anton Chekhov and Ivan Turgenev ... encourages hope of survival in a sometimes hopeless world. It opens windows to unknown, unseen, unheralded lives.
Dorothy B. Hughes
RaveLos Angeles Review of BooksThe novel...is a revelation. It utilizes Hughes’s poetic skills to create an overwhelming atmosphere of fear, terror, and suspense surrounded by the high society environment of 1940 New York City. The novel is supersaturated with crisp dialogue, insurmountably evil characters infused with menace and malice, and a fast-paced plot that explores morality and depravity ... The breathless conclusion to The So Blue Marble underscores its choice as the perfect inaugural title for the American Mystery Classic series ... Hughes’s classic is evidence that a good page-turner never dies.
RaveWashington Independent Review of Books\"Elizabeth McCracken’s Bowlaway is a perfect novel. It takes classic narrative techniques and turns them into Greek drama. It is the very best kind of old-fashioned story molded into a modern chronicle ... Bowlaway is a totally immersive experience. It has everything — scalpel-edged prose, fully delineated characters, vividly described regional settings, a satisfying storyline, and an unforgettable powerhouse ending. It is unstoppable entertainment. Though it’s early in the reviewing year, this is likely the best novel of 2019. It is Elizabeth McCracken’s masterpiece. Bowlaway will blow readers away. Blammo.\
RaveThe National Book Review\"... exemplary ... Normal People is a definitive novel of the transformative period of the years from late adolescence to early maturity. Rooney adeptly examines the paradigm shifts that occur during the vacillating choices of popularity, the exigencies of class consciousness, and the vagaries of love. It is not clear how open people ever are to change, but Rooney makes a compelling case that when they do change, it is likely because someone else has affected them.\
Helene Tursten, Trans. by Marlaine Delargy
PositiveWashington Independent Review of Books\"... quirky ... [The first story in the collection is] jaw-dropping, head-spinning ... The five delightfully daffy stories in An Elderly Lady Is Up to No Good provide a succinct treatise on how to get away with murder. This is a terrific little dollop of crime.\
RaveWashington Independent Review of Books\"... magnetic ... It is not a book for everyone. Not everyone will like it. But everyone should read it ... Nobody ever said Joyce, Woolf, Beckett, Mann, or James are for the faint of heart. Milkman falls into that company ... Milkman vibrates. It is energized with a perspective that immerses the reader in a setting that commands attention. It resonates because of the symbiotic interplay of its characters. Its language soars. It would be the same story if it were written in blood. And, in some ways, it is.\
RaveLos Angeles Review of Books\"Forever and a Day pushes all the Bond buttons. The requisite staccato sentences, the larger-than-life characters, the vivid details of geography, and the action-packed chase episodes ... In Scipio, Horowitz has created a proper Bond villain ... Like most Bond novels, Forever and a Day is heavily plot driven, with dollops of character, and hefty action sequences. Reading any of Fleming’s novels underscores how closely Horowitz adheres to the sense and the style of the original texts ... Forever and a Day is true to the Bond character — not the Bond of the movies but the Bond of the books. You don’t know Bond until you’ve read Horowitz’s highly imaginative manifestation. This is Bond 1.0. Accept no facsimiles.
RaveThe National Book Review... a study in comparisons, contrasts, and changes. She takes a seemingly easy metaphor—a house in shambles—and mines it for its rich personal, historical, and political assets ... Much of the appeal of Kingsolver’s alluring novel is the intertwined narratives that contrast historic changes from the past with the present ... Kingsolver’s triumphant achievement is that she creates contemporary and historical families who demonstrate the need for believing in the enduring nature of truth and justice.
Karl Ove Knausgaard, Trans. by Don Bartlett & Martin Aitken
RaveThe Washington Independent Review of BooksFor fans addicted to the first five books, Book Six is a welcome return to the microscopic observations and internal ramblings of a gargantuan mind. For readers coming to the series for the first time, it’s an encyclopedic introduction to everything that went before ... There is an overwhelming, often cumbersome accretion of details which sometimes threatens to sink the narrative ... These details seem tedious until the reader recognizes that they are the narrative ... My Struggle is a magnificent hybrid. It is literature unto itself—sui generis. A unique accomplishment that demands to be read. It is not a light read and yet it is not difficult to read.
If you only have the time to commit to one book in the series, start with Book Six. But the guarantee is that you will be hooked and start over with Book One.
MixedThe MillionsIn this case, the subtitle promises more than the book can deliver ... While it’s important to recognize the facts about Sally Horner, Weinman also relies on conjecture, often based on second-hand information from friends or acquaintances of Sally to fill the gaps of her speculative narrative. This mixing of fact and conjecture mutes the overall effect of her argument ... The assertion that Dolores is based on Sally is pure conjecture ... It’s easy to praise Weinman’s book as a new look at Lolita. It’s also just as easy to dismiss its contribution to Nabokov scholarship. Neither judgment is completely fair. Weinman is owed her due. But Nabokov’s novel overshadows it all ... Weinman’s book neither diminishes nor enhances his. Reading hers should not affect the reading of his. While Weinman’s work informs the creative process, it does not change the response to Nabokov’s masterwork ... The Real Lolita is best considered with an asterisk, as a footnote to Nabokov studies. It should provide incentive to read or reread the real Lolita.
RaveThe Washington Independent Review of BooksHer narrative is clever and serious yet not without the element of Atkinson’s trademark humor ... there is a comic fiasco of farcical proportions that becomes tragic ... Kate Atkinson is a masterful manipulator of lies. Transcription is a spectacular game of deception, her own perfect plot. It is as twisty and efficient—everything falls into place like the tumblers of a combination lock—as the best of Le Carré.
RaveThe Washington Independent Review of Books... stretches over four decades, never losing sight of its overriding theme exemplified by the story of Daedalus and Icarus — the perfect plot ... Atkinson keeps well the secret of who here is Daedalus and who is Icarus ... Her narrative is clever and serious yet not without the element of Atkinson’s trademark humor ... Kate Atkinson is a masterful manipulator of lies. Transcription is a spectacular game of deception, her own perfect plot. It is as twisty and efficient — everything falls into place like the tumblers of a combination lock — as the best of Le Carré.
PositiveThe Washington Independent Review if BooksThe 10 stories in Kevin Wilson’s Baby, You’re Gonna Be Mine are tough to read. Not difficult — just tough. They’re soaked in loss and unrelenting unhappiness. That’s not to say they are cheerless; nevertheless, what humor exists in them is always dark. The characters — who mostly live in the rural southeastern United States — are burdened with Thoreau’s \'lives of quiet desperation.\' Sometimes the desperation is so quiet that they may find themselves shouting into the wind ... The unnerving stories in You’re Gonna Be Mine, though supersaturated with unhappiness, also examine what it means to be human. The only path to surviving is to keep running and keep breathing. The sad irony of the human comedy is that, more often than not, it is steeped in tragedy.
RaveLos Angeles Review of Books...extraordinary ... Crace seeks and finds the genuine ... It’s a plot that allows Crace to explore the devastating consequences of poverty’s losing battle with profit ... The Melody is an elegiac ode of its own that confronts the evanescence of life ... In underscoring Crace’s genuineness, the novel champions the benefits of friendship and community in the face of inexorable progress and change.
RaveThe National Book Review\"All of the stories in Florida are unforgettable. They stick to your brain like peanut butter on the roof of your mouth. Each demands to be savored. Each can be reread and become more rewarding. Some are the stuff of nightmares, some more real than others. As the state that engendered them is \'shifty and constantly contradicts itself,\' the characters and the reader discover how it illuminates the shifting demands of life. Groff has found the perfect state of mind for her restless natives.\
RaveWashington Independent Review of Books\"This offbeat collection about endangered marriages is sure to please. There aren’t enough superlatives to praise Brock Clarke’s extraordinary new collection, The Price of the Haircut. In fact, it’s hard to find fault or serious flaws with any of the 11 stories. Clarke is outrageously inventive. He has a masterful command of voice, style, and character, and an off-key humor which is often mind-boggling ... Without reservation, the stories in The Price of the Haircut are a series of unexpected, rewarding pleasures. They are the finest products of an accomplished writer with a unique mind.\
RaveThe Los Angeles Review of BooksNoir, ostensibly a satiric mash-up of the sci-fi and hard-boiled mystery genres, cleverly morphs into a well-crafted novel about love and friendship ... Despite his deviations from classic noir, Moore still manages to deal with thematic touchstones of the genre. There is an element of cynicism, alienation, and general unease about the world ... While adhering to the basic tenets of noir fiction and film, he surpasses the usual by introducing sci-fi elements into the mix ... Noir turns a legendary genre on its side and offers grand entertainment at every level.
RaveThe Los Angeles Review of BooksFate dominates the marginalized characters — children, the elderly, single middle-aged men and women — who are struggling with what Trevor referred to in a 1989 Paris Review interview as life’s \'meaninglessness.\' But his humanistic storytelling redeems each of these lives without judgment ... Odd and unexpected relationships define many of the stories in the collection, often as love languishes somewhere in the narrative equation ... Trevor’s half-century’s worth of masterful short fiction is justifiably admired ... These exemplary Last Stories underscore that well-earned praise.
RaveThe National Book ReviewOne of the questions most frequently asked of writers is, \'How did you get your start?\' That and many other questions about writing and a writer’s life are answered in the all-encompassing nine essays in Pulitzer Prize winner Richard Russo’s The Destiny Thief: Essays on Writing, Writers and Life ... Anyone in search of an eye-opening series of essays by a distinguished writer about writing and the writing life need look no further than the nine entertaining and informative entries in The Destiny Thief.
RaveThe National Book Review\"The title of Booker-prize winning author Michael Ondaatje’s latest work, Warlight, aptly sets the atmosphere: the darkness of war casts an emotional and physical pall over this captivating novel ... Warlight is constantly surprising and thoroughly satisfying. It is a rich story with intriguing characters whose personal secrets resonate more broadly -- as a lesson in the prolonged, haunting repercussions of war.\
PositiveThe National Book ReviewThe novel opens with a question, the \'only real question\' of life: \'Would you rather love the more, and suffer the more; or love the less, and suffer the less?\' Barnes assays the answer in the remainder of the novel, easily (and perhaps best) read in one sitting ... The conclusion to The Only Story is heartbreaking. It moves from \'absolutism\' to \'absolution.\' Barnes delivers a powerhouse finish, a discomforting sense of an ending to a no-fault affair.
RaveThe National Book Review[Banville] seamlessly blends personal history with the story of Dublin to produce a rich non-traditional autobiography suffused with compelling descriptions and captivating anecdotes ... Time Pieces concludes with Banville wondering, almost nostalgically, like F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 'boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past,' what path time will take him on next. The reward for the reader of this fine memoir is that Banville has already provided an indelible image of his impressive footprints.
RaveThe National Book ReviewStylistically, the novels are similar, a series of fractured narratives, numerous flashbacks and flashforwards that cohere into an intricate collage peppered with Smith’s trademark puns and wordplay. Winter is not a sequel to Autumn but they share subjects and themes, including a discriminating observation of art, family, and politics ...Smith’s style makes the reader do the same with the novel, as if \'[i]t’s also like seeing inside and outside something at once\' ... These are stark descriptions of a degraded world – and, by inference, of the characters and events in Smith\'s engrossing tale. By the time Winter finishes with the family Cleves, the anxious, breathless reader can only hope that like Shelley’s \'wild, west\' wind, which blows in as a harbinger of \'spring not being far behind,\' Smith’s Spring will not be long in arriving.
RaveThe Seattle TimesMost of the stories are in a reflective mode. They deal wistfully with the inevitabilities of age and mortality along with adultery, divorce and illness. Teachers, financiers, homemakers, statisticians and investment advisers with full lives encounter the ‘increments of uncertainty’ while discovering how ‘time consumes us’ … The evocative nature of the stories in My Father's Tears echo the melancholy of Chekhov, the romanticism of Wordsworth and the mournful spirit of Yeats. Whether it is remembering the past or searching for the indomitable spirit of the future, the stories coalesce into a haunting collage of heart-wrenching narratives.
RaveThe New York Journal of Books...in this slender but searingly intense novella, Heather, The Totality, he finds a nailbiting drama that suits his storytelling skills. In a series of 211 short paragraphs divided into five parts, he provides electrifying vignettes that bring together four disparate lives in Manhattan ...everything is downhill and Weiner exploits every element of suspense, working toward a conclusion that has been intricately prepared for with minute details throughout the novella ...Weiner embraces Edgar Allan Poe’s basic tenet of mysteries: that everyone is capable of murder ...perhaps best binge-read in its totality in one sitting.
RaveThe National Book ReviewOn the surface, it appears to be a traditionally written historical novel about the mid-1930s to the mid-1940s with crime, deceit, and vengeance at its core. But the novel is about anything but surfaces. It’s a novel of and about depths. Depths of relationships, depths of despair, and actual watery depths. Its background is the war abroad; its foreground is the war at home … Manhattan Beach is at times surprising. It provides a reading experience like no other. It does not disappoint. Ultimately, its finest achievement is that it proves irrefutably that a woman’s place is in the work place – or wherever it is that she wants to be.
RaveThe National Book ReviewThe Golden House is Salman Rushdie’s latest tragic family saga wrapped in an odyssey of epic proportions wrapped in a fanciful fairy tale ... On one level it refers to both the family and the architecturally extravagant building they live in... On another level it carries echoes of classical Greek and Roman drama and mythology ... Rushdie litters the novel with encyclopedic references to film, books, writers, fables, and other elements of pop culture and history ... Much of the novel hangs on the clothesline of history and politics ... Questions of good and evil, ethics and morality temper Rushdie’s imaginings of both nations ... The Golden House is tailor-made for any reader looking for an extravagant, luxuriously written story of immigration and affirmation. It is a story of reinvention imbued with the caustic examination of an ill-fated family.
RaveThe National Book ReviewBill Goldstein’s The World Broke In Two is an indispensable guide to four legendary writers who were largely responsible for the creation of modern literature. What could have been a musty, fusty, dusty academic tome is, instead, an easily accessible encomium to a group of artists who did as much as any to shape 20th century fiction and poetry. Goldstein illuminates their personal crises, their professional failures, and finally their successes … Once Goldstein establishes the chief biographical elements of each of the four writers, he devotes the remainder of The World Broke in Two to detailing the shifts and accommodations each had to make to their lives and their work. He also clearly shows how Woolf, Eliot, Lawrence, and Forster benefited from the influence and inspiration of other major writers in their circle, most notably James Joyce, Marcel Proust, and Ezra Pound.
RaveThe Seattle TimesThe Sea is a stylish novel. Banville, former literary editor of the Irish Times, is a master of language skills. He offers word choices, alliterative phrases and vivid descriptions that seem to reinvent the use of the alphabet … If this brief novel were little more than style without substance, it would not be worth much attention except as an exercise in rhetoric. Banville is too fine a writer to provide just the sizzle. His simple story line and subtle plot structure blend with a mesmerizing narrative voice to reveal a complex memoir of love, grief and a ‘journey of surpassing but inexplicable importance’ … As The Sea approaches its bombshell of an ending, Banville masterfully melds the past with the present, allowing Max to find strength in what remains behind.
PositiveThe National Book Review...Julia Glass’s (National Book Award Winner for Three Junes) compelling exploration of celebrity culture, A House Among the Trees ... The truths behind the events in Tucson, like the inner truths of Lear’s life, are slowly revealed as the novel unwinds. Glass is a master at withholding information until just the right moment ... Like the scene in The Great Gatsby in which Fitzgerald describes Gatsby’s shirts, in A House Among the Trees, Glass uses descriptions of Lear’s necktie collection to unveil traits of his personality ...lengthy description is noteworthy because it relates to a central part of Lear’s life with Soren Kelly, his lover who dies of AIDS. Glass provides graphic details about their relationship and Soren’s death ... She brings together all the characters – and sums up their stories tidily.
PanThe Seattle TimesRobinson's new novel, Gilead, is propelled by some of the same themes of loneliness and survival and is written with the same lucid prose style [as Housekeeping], but its characters are not nearly as engaging nor its story as compelling … Ames' somber life is tied up with his namesake and best friend, John Ames Boughton, and that man's son, Jack Jr. Jack, a prodigal son, bears a secret that he reveals to Ames. The parallels to Ames' family are a bit too pat and anticipated, even though they relate to the primary theme of fathers and sons and the necessity for forgiveness and repentance.