RaveThe Arts DeskThe novel’s simple yet fantastical premise renders Nora’s story a modern day parable, exploring regret, pain and the richness of the ordinary in life. An exquisite depiction of existential depression and the lessons it can reveal, The Midnight Library is a captivating story and an uplifting antidote to the cult of self-improvement: a manifesto for true self-acceptance ... The warped logic of severe depression is honestly and clearly expressed ... Nora\'s inner landscape is artfully rendered on the page ... Self-harm is discussed throughout the novel, with calmness and grace ... However, I found the depiction of antidepressants reductive: when Nora enters one of her favourite potential lives, she views the absence of antidepressants in the bathroom drawer as evidence of a happy life. Writing from lived experience, Haig is right to critically examine the efficacy of powerful medication; however, in a book that treats every other aspect of mental health with such compassion, it is disappointing to find an implicit disregard for what is, for many who battle with suicidal urges, a life-saving and life-maintaining treatment ... this masterful novel is a more powerful guide to self-acceptance than any self-help book. Despite the fantastical nature of the plot, Nora is the anchor of the story: whether at home on the verge of taking an overdose, or browsing through magical books in the midnight library, she is absolutely real. As readers, her journey is our journey, and by the end, my own \'book of regrets\' felt considerably lighter.
MixedThe Arts DeskExploring race, politics and class in Britain, Hornby is in volatile and controversial territory ... Sadly, Just Like You squanders this potential; despite the effortless quality of the prose and the flashes of warmth and humour emblematic of vintage Hornby, there is an inauthenticity at the novel’s heart which seeps through even in the opening pages. At times, Just Like You is trying so hard to be a \'woke,\' \'political\' novel that it ends up being one-dimensional and tone-deaf ... Though some of Hornby’s depiction of racism is thought-provoking and well observed, the confidence with which he writes about an experience which, as a white author, he can never fully understand, is at times unsettling ... Despite having clearly set out to write a Brexit novel, Hornby’s discussion of Brexit is stuffed awkwardly into exchanges between the characters ... his infamous talent for everyday observation sparkles ... Hornby’s inimitable style is not enough to save this novel, which flounders under the weight of the political topics.
RaveThe Guardian (UK)Persaud has a knack for finding the sublime in the ordinary: in her hands the quotidian details of even apparently \'small\' lives lead to flashes of pure truth ... the language is colloquial, with both narrative and dialogue soaked in an ear-catching Trinidadian dialect. The prose is playful and rhythmic, seeming to beat its own drum, so that at times you don’t read the novel so much as hear it. You sit in its company while it takes you into its confidence ... One of the reasons Love After Love is so delightful is that it reads like a modern meditation on the different kinds of love as catalogued by the ancient Greeks, crossed with the characters’ deliciously gossipy self-reflection. Persaud gives us a captivating interrogation of love in all its forms, how it heals and how it harms, the twists and torments of obsession (mania), sex and romance (eros), family (storge), friendship (philia), acceptance or rejection by the community, and so on. But much like the Derek Walcott poem from which it takes its title, the novel is ultimately concerned with the possibilities of that elated and oddly elegiac moment when we finally come to love ourselves.
PositiveThe Arts Desk...Pozzi is a fascinating subject for Barnes’s obsessive attention; an exceptional doctor and rational thinker, embedded in the most fashionable Parisian social circles ... Barnes is an urbane and cultured guide, weaving his commentary on art, literature, and philosophy into a fluid narrative whilst exposing the seams of a society preoccupied with reputation to a deadly degree ... The Man in the Red Coat is the story of an era so dizzying and fantastical it seems like fiction, even in Barnes’ impeccably researched retelling.