RaveThe New York Times Book Review\"Here’s a things-go-bad story Thomas Hardy could have written in his prime, although the Hardy version would probably contain no lines such as ‘I looked like the lowlife in a zombie movie who isn’t going to make it past the first half-hour’ … So far, so Agatha Christie (who is even name-checked in passing). You have the murder victim, another skanger (although a rich one) whose passing we need not mourn; you have the small pool of possible suspects; you have the manor house with the walled-in garden where the body was discovered. But an Agatha Christie novel might run 250 pages or so. The Witch Elm is twice that length, and I’m relieved to report that those added pages aren’t just filler ... Characters aside, the book is lifted by French’s nervy, almost obsessive prose. Although they are of different sexes and nationalities, when I read Tana French I’m always reminded of David Goodis. She has that same need to go over it, and over it and over it again, like a farmer who can’t plow the field just once but must go at it from every point of the compass, sweating over the wheel of his tractor, not satisfied until every clod has been crumbled away.”
RaveThe New York Times Sunday Book ReviewPerrotta has delivered a troubling disquisition on how ordinary people react to extraordinary and inexplicable events, the power of family to hurt and to heal, and the unobtrusive ease with which faith can slide into fanaticism … Perrotta’s novel opens three years after a rapturelike event has whisked millions of people off the face of the earth. Just how many millions Perrotta doesn’t specify, but it can’t have been too many, because the phones still work and Starbucks still dispenses coffee by the grande … Perrotta suggests that in times of real trouble, extremism trumps logic and dialogue becomes meaningless. Read as a metaphor for the social and political splintering of American society after 9/11, it’s a chillingly accurate diagnosis.
MixedThe New York Times Book Review...[an] exercise in self-regarding arrogance and self-pity ... And still, I sort of liked it. As with some of the more gruesome Thomas Hardy novels (Jude the Obscure comes to mind), reading Mother Land is like watching a slow-motion car crash ... Theroux can tell a story when not occupied with his narrator’s need to enumerate old hurts and settle old scores ... Mother Land is an exercise in mean-spirited score-settling. It’s also fun ... Is style enough? Shall we read this Bible-size rant for its prose? The reader must decide for him- or herself. As for me, I enjoyed Mother Land against my will.
RaveThe New York Times Sunday Book ReviewThe Goldfinch is a rarity that comes along perhaps half a dozen times per decade, a smartly written literary novel that connects with the heart as well as the mind. I read it with that mixture of terror and excitement I feel watching a pitcher carry a no-hitter into the late innings. You keep waiting for the wheels to fall off, but in the case of The Goldfinch, they never do … Surprisingly few novelists write well of grief, but Tartt — whose language is dense, allusive and so vivid it’s intoxicating — does it as well as it can be done … Tartt depicts the friendship of these two cast-adrift adolescent boys with a clarity of observation I would have thought next to impossible for a writer who was never part of that closed male world … The Goldfinch is a triumph with a brave theme running through it: art may addict, but art also saves us from ‘the ungainly sadness of creatures pushing and struggling to live.’
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewAfter making my way through several recent novels written in tiresome hey-look-at-me prose, The Wonder arrived as a welcome relief. Donoghue’s prose is as sturdy and serviceable as a good pair of brogans, but never nondescript. There are occasional flashes of lyricism but Donoghue’s main purpose here is story, story, story, and God bless her for it ... Anna’s plight and Lib’s efforts to save her (initially reluctant, ultimately frantic) make this book, flawed though it is in some respects, impossible to put down ... less palatable is the distracting romance Donoghue loads onto the second half of her tale ... flaws, but not fatal ones. For the most part, The Wonder is a fine, fact-based historical novel, an old-school page turner.