RaveThe New York Review of Books... moving ... O’Farrell brilliantly conveys the horror and devastation the plague brought to individual households—such as Shakespeare’s, as she imagines it—and to entire communities ... a satisfying and engaging novel that conjures up the life of a strong, vulnerable, lonely, and fiercely independent woman ... With her touching fiction O’Farrell has not only painted a vivid portrait of the shadowy Agnes Hathaway Shakespeare but also found a way to suggest that Hamnet was William Shakespeare’s best piece of poetry.
Scott G Bruce
MixedThe New York Review of Books\"The Penguin Book of Hell does not offer any explanation of how Christianity, from a contradictory jumble of ancient notions (Egyptian, Hebrew, Babylonian, Persian, Greek, and Roman), arrived at the full-fledged nightmare ... Whether it derived from the Pharisees or the Essenes or some entirely personal vision, Jesus’s emphasis on a fiery place of torment for sinners seems to have licensed the outpouring of texts, many of them translated here by the editor, that constitute most of a volume that would, given the absence of Buddhist and other traditions, have been more accurately titled \'The Penguin Book of Christian Hell\' ... Dante’s stupendous poetic achievement is too rich and complex to fit comfortably into The Penguin Book of Hell. In its deep human sympathy, the Inferno resists functioning as a piece of doctrine or grim pedagogy, and the few excerpts that the editor includes seem out of place among the cruder fantasies and dire warnings that dominate the anthology ... One of the prime motives of these texts is rage, rage against people occupying positions of exceptional trust and power who lie and cheat and trample on the most basic values and yet who escape the punishment they so manifestly deserve.\
RaveThe New York Review of BooksHilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall is a startling achievement, a brilliant historical novel focused on the rise to power of a figure exceedingly unlikely, on the face of things, to arouse any sympathy at all … Cromwell’s actual life story is, in its way, a somberly fascinating one. But it is not the story that Hilary Mantel has chosen to relate. The Cromwell of Wolf Hall has some of the qualities that his enemies feared and detested—toughness, wiliness, worldliness—but as Mantel depicts them, they are qualities in the service of survival, success, and even a measure of decency in a cruel and indecent world … This is a novel too in which nothing is wasted, and nothing completely disappears.
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewHamlet Globe to Globe is a compulsively readable, intensely personal chronicle of performances in places as various as Djibouti and Gdansk, Taipei and Bogotá. The book is in large part a tribute to the perils and pleasures of touring...they would fly in, hastily assemble their set, unpack their props and costumes, shake hands with officials, give interviews to the local press, and mount the stage for two and a half hours of ghostly haunting, brooding soliloquies, madcap humor, impulsive stabbing, feigned and real madness, graveside grappling, swordplay and the final orgy of murder.
RaveThe New York Review of BooksThe violence that A Horse Walks into a Bar explores is more private and intimate. Its central interest is not the vicious treatment of vulnerable others but the cruelty that wells up within families, circulates like a poison in tight-knit groups, and finally turns inward against the self. Grossman’s literary kinship here is not with Swift’s 'A Modest Proposal' but rather with Dostoevsky’s Notes from Underground or Kafka’s The Judgment ... No suicidal leap from the bridge, but the novel stages a comparable act of self-destruction, and in the course of doing so, it enters into the Kafka-zone where tragedy and comedy are braided together ... [a] searing and poignant novel.