PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewO’Brien has had to be forgiven for being seductive both on and off the page; there is a price to be paid for being a beautiful woman who produces beautiful prose ... No one does yearning like Edna O’Brien, who here occasionally reminds us that the fulfilled life is not worth examining. Artifice thrills her, including physical artifice ... But the objects threaten to bury the inner life, as happens in O’Brien’s later chapters. Neither as crystalline nor as lyrical as the early ones, they bog down in bold names ... Any memoir that is any good must be better-proportioned than real life. This one is shapely in the curvaceous ways of longing and regret ...
PositiveThe New York Times Book Review\"Seymour is cleareyed but gentle, ably redeeming a steely, resourceful woman from her decades as a \'humorless despot.\' For the most part she steps aside and lets these two forces of nature speak for their eloquent selves. The result is a rich narrative, though one that can leave the reader stranded among headlong peregrinations and pinballing emotions.\
RaveThe New York Review of BooksTomalin brings to these pages the same equanimity she does to her biographies and, at times, yet more restraint: no Tomalin subject would be likely to get away with so slender an account of an exhilarating romance with Martin Amis ... This is in many ways a private book, hardly the most selling word in memoir but no less gripping for it. One does wonder if Tomalin treads lightly, nearly shyly ... Tomalin is decidedly less pointed in her memoir than in the short pieces that serve as connective tissue to her 1999 collection of criticism. (She is also less naughty: we no longer catch her, while employed by his publisher, steaming open Graham Greene’s mail.) She defers regularly to her diary, which effectively keeps the emotions at bay ... The style is cool, light, crisp—linen on the page. She has reduced the writing life to six words: \'silence, hard slog, loneliness, old clothes\' ... as the powerful literary editor of The Sunday Times ... [a] tour of the British literary firmament follows: if you want to know who wrote long, who wrote fast, and who wrote only when not drinking, here is your chance. Success does not translate into the most successful pages, however ... It is unclear if self-exposure has cheered her or if after 331 pages Tomalin sees herself any more clearly. We certainly do ... She proves...as brave as she is eloquent, sustained by comic opera, the heroine of her own life after all.
RaveThe New York Times Sunday Book ReviewEnglander has sharpened his focus. His subjects are mercy, vengeance and their moody, intractable stepchild, righteousness. He is never deaf to the past or willing to grant us that luxury … Englander knows where to hold back, a particular gift when writing about and around the martyr of his title, the locked up and locked in. A kind of hard-won wisdom spills out on every page. Nowhere is that more true than in the collection’s two finest stories, both delivered with Englander’s trademark blend of the breezy and the biblical, both meditations on what ‘2,000 years of being chased’ can do to a people … Stubborn people. Stubborn history. Terrific collection.
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewWhile Holmes divides his essays into sections, each can be read as a riff on Virginia Woolf’s sly observation that the actual length of a person’s life is open to dispute. Lives don’t necessarily end on deathbeds after all. Biographically speaking, Holmes points out, the dead are immortal, the more so if you acknowledge the essential open-endedness of the exercise. Documents surface. Memories fail. In an especially loose-limbed chapter he takes his uncertainty out for a stroll, reflecting back to that seminal summer ... He is particularly eloquent about Shelley, with whom he has lived intermittently for decades and who met his end in an 1822 shipwreck.
PositiveThe Washington PostQuinn is the first to devote a full volume to the relationship ... Quinn has produced an intimate book, tender and wise. She is strangely silent on only one count: She offers no sense of what, if anything, FDR knew or whether it mattered ... With the war years, Quinn’s account resists her bold subtitle, which uneasily accommodates the two women’s diverging paths and fortunes.