RaveThe Times Literary SupplementBefore she died in 2021, aged eighty-six, Malcolm found a playful and unpretentious way to write about her own life. Still Pictures: On photography and memory is a series of short chronologically arranged reflections centred on photographs, shot through with her unerring sense of the absurd ... she deftly traces the arc of her life, sometimes revealing, more often withholding, a selection of precious memories ... For those who loved Janet Malcolm on the page and in life, the fact that there will be no further pieces by her, no more emails, letters, phone calls, or conversations in cars and observations while jaywalking, is truly painful. But to end with the annals of horsing around seems faithful to the Chekhovian spirit that meant so much to her.
PositiveThe Times Literary Supplement (UK)... a beautiful meditation on memory ... The mood of the writing is more disorientated than dreamlike ... Chaudhuri does not use titles, names or numbers to separate the sections of his narrative. Instead there are generous spaces, including whole blank pages such as these. The effect is similar to that of reading someone’s notebook, intimate and fragmentary; but the impressions are not chronologically arranged, as they might be in an actual notebook. They circle round and double back on themselves in an artful way that shows the narrator sinking into a reckoning with Berlin’s past, which ends in a series of dizzy spells and an amnesia that includes his own name.
RaveThe Times (UK)Beginning with the invasion of Caesar and ending on the eve of the pandemic, Robb ranges freely through time...In the meantime, Robb remains fascinated by the nuances of French language and culture...In this idiosyncratic and deeply personal history of France, Robb proudly distances himself from more conventional historians past and present...Let them assemble their \'unstoppable baggage train of documents labelled with their correct address in time,\' if that is what they want to do...He prefers \'the darkening roads that stretch out before and behind us in the here and now.\'
Penelope J. Corfield
PositiveFinancial Times (UK)The novelist Brigid Brophy wrote that \'the two most fascinating subjects in the universe are sex and the eighteenth century\'. Corfield’s comprehensive survey of the Georgians assembles evidence for this claim: their deeds and misdeeds, their contributions to cultural and scientific progress and their pursuit of empire and enslavement are a hotly disputed legacy ... Corfield’s shift from the brutality of slavery and colonialisation to the solace of the natural world echoes the stoical end of Candide: \'We must cultivate our garden.\'
PositiveTimes Literary Supplement (UK)Barker’s portraits of Pyrrhus as the anti-hero and Briseis as the unsung heroine sometimes falter through misjudged similes and metaphors ... If Barker does write a third book in this series she will have produced a classical trilogy to complement, perhaps even rival, Regeneration.
RaveThe Times Literary Supplement (UK)China Room is the most personal of Sahota’s novels so far, a beautifully realized blend of fiction and memoir. It ends with a photograph of the author’s great-grandmother holding him as a screaming baby. The numbered chapters that tell Mehar’s third- person story are interleaved with unnumbered sections narrated by her great-grandson. The fluid structure allows the resonances between the two completely different lives to accumulate delicately ... Sahota is a truly original novelist, his prose sparingly precise in its beauty, steeped in kindness and deep humanity.
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalMs. Craveri shows in her thorough and scholarly book how memoirs and personal letters that became highly politicized in the aftermath of the Revolution can be used to reconstruct a portrait of a vanished era. The portrait she provides does not include details of excessive or unusual sexual practice; the Marquis de Sade, surely the most notorious of the last libertines, is not mentioned and does not appear in the index. Nor does Ms. Craveri discuss in detail the philosophical and anti-clerical origins of libertinism. Instead she evokes the insular world of a doomed elite, seducing each other on the brink of the world-changing Revolution. \'Do you want to know what a revolution is?\' the Vicomte de Ségur asked after 1789. \'It can be summed up quite neatly with the words: Get out, so that I may install myself in your place.\'
RaveThe Times Literary Supplement (UK)The distinction between literary and crime fiction has been kicked down and Banville is about Black’s business: that is the real mystery at the centre of Snow ... The suspects are finely drawn ... As Strafford politely searches for the murderer, clues drop like heavy branches on to fallen snow, each with a resounding thud. Banville does not deploy Black’s competence at constructing a satisfying murder mystery in Snow. His purpose here is more literary ... The reason Snow has been published under Banville’s name is that it isn’t really crime fiction; it is a beautifully written, atmospheric, literary novel that begins with a murder.
RaveThe Spectator (UK)It is a perfect jewel of a book, a dark emerald set in the Irish laureate’s fictional tiara ... Its brilliance is complex and multifaceted, but completely lucid. Like its predecessors, it is a portrait of a matriarch ... Actress is a deeply humane, often darkly funny novel about the exercise of power over sexually attractive women. The grim subject matter is illuminated by Enright’s acute sensitivity to language.
RaveThe Telegraph (UK)What follows is a subversive challenge to the idea of autobiography: a purposeful melding of fact, fiction and feeling. Like Muriel Spark’s Curriculum Vitae and Hilary Mantel’s Giving Up the Ghost, Munro’s \'final four works\' will loom like megaliths over all who pick up their pens to write about her in the future ... In this book, Munro has laid bare the foundations of her fiction as never before. Lovers of her writing must hope this is not, in fact, her finale. But if it is, it’s spectacular.
PositiveThe Times Literary SupplementMantel is edgy, all but gritting her teeth against the self-imposed exposure she has undertaken, \'I used to think that autobiography was a form of weakness, and perhaps I still do. But I also think that, if you’re weak, it’s childish to pretend to be strong.\' At fifty, things that have not happened haunt her – the lives, loves, and children she hadn’t had ... Her memoir resembles a strip of photographic negatives: awkward to read but precisely revealing of the roles played by absence and loss in defining a life ... ...exposed, raw testimony to the willpower of someone who will face the world exactly as she chooses; and no hierarchy – not even the Top Nun – could stop her.
RaveThe Guardian[Moore] focuses on the wood that became the ship Endeavour, and in doing so is able to connect a far-flung cast of characters and places, pulling into his story politicians, philosophers, sailors, ship-builders and the natural history of Britain, Australia and New Zealand ... Moore gives a balanced account of Endeavour’s cultural afterlife ... Moore’s richly detailed book is an engrossing love letter to a word, an attitude and a ship: it is an endeavour that honours Endeavour, without denying the death and destruction that followed in her wake.
PositiveThe Washington PostThe historical mirror that The Regency Years holds up to contemporary Britain is disturbing ... [The Prince Regent] ruled over a period of extraordinary creativity and it is that progressive cultural legacy that Mr. Morrison commends to contemporary Britain and the rest of the world.
Robert A. Caro
PositiveThe Times Literary SupplementThe author’s subject is not great men; it is political power. Caro is not a hagiographer or hero-worshipper. He is interested in understanding how power really works, not in theory but in practice ... Some of the material has been published before; some of it is new. The book is an insurance policy, or safe deposit box, against the march of time ... The tone is companionable, teaching, if at all, by example ... not a distillation of advice to aspiring biographers ... Caro is at his most didactic on the importance of fine writing in non-fiction.
Angela Steidele Trans. by Katy Derbyshire
PositiveThe GuardianSteidele makes grateful use of the work of five generations of scholars, not attempting further decoding but drawing together what has already been revealed to tell the story of Lister’s \'insubordinate life and loves in a single volume\' ... Steidele’s steely account of the lives behind the first rainbowed plaque is a triumph of truth over fantasy. Lister’s extraordinary pioneering life deserves to be remembered, even if, in Steidele’s words, she was \'a beast of a woman\'.
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalMr. Zamoyski rejects the Great Man thesis ... Napoleon emerges from Mr. Zamoyski’s book a wilful, self-made opportunist ... A worthy riposte to that of Andrew Roberts.
PositiveThe Financial TimesSampson’s approach in In Search of Mary Shelley: The Girl Who Wrote Frankenstein is the opposite of that taken by Muriel Spark in Child of Light (1951) ... Sampson treats Mary’s writing more as a series of clues—palimpsests through which it is possible to trace biography ... She concentrates on girlhood and youth, passing swiftly over the long years of widowhood ... Sampson’s book succeeds intermittently in bringing Mary closer to us ... But descriptions of her prose (the rhythm of one letter is described as being \'like driving a car with the breaks on\') can be distracting and anachronistic. Ultimately, Mary Shelley emerges from Sampson’s book as an intellectual interested in moral codes or laws: a daughter of whom Wollstonecraft would have been deeply proud.
RaveThe Financial Times...through agile prose and erudition [Stubbs] succeeds in offering something delicate, subtle and new ... In Stubbs’s fine and sensitive book, he emerges an embittered, deeply humane man: someone who turned his own experience of abandonment and humiliation into a vicious literary scourge of the callous and powerful establishments of his time. Stubbs restores Swift’s writing to its rich religious and cultural contexts without diminishing its autonomy.
RaveThe New York Review of BooksThe Wonder is a narrative vortex within which the old authority of religion and the new authority of science are simultaneously shattered … Donoghue’s decision to invent an Irish fasting girl in 1859 allows her to evoke a religious and spiritual culture within which extreme fasting could still be viewed as wondrous rather than pathological … The perversity of self-starvation in a setting where the Irish Potato Famine claimed a million lives from 1845 to 1852 is subtly handled by Donoghue. Lib is irritated by ‘Mr. Eliot’s moralizing’ in Adam Bede, and Donoghue avoids any moral comment on her character’s refusal of food in a country so recently blighted by famine … The Wonder recalls the claustrophobia of Room and is in some respects a more self-consciously literary repetition of its best-selling predecessor.
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalLike the Parisian cafés it is modeled on, Ms. Bakewell’s book is sometimes overcrowded and hectic. But for those who have time to sit and think, it is crammed with interest and rich in atmosphere. At its heart is a clear understanding of the relation between philosophy and biography...By the end of her book, it is clear that an understanding of philosophy cannot be separated from the lives that defined it.