RaveThe Guardian (UK)Ward’s ingenious fiction debut stands in a tradition of philosophical fiction: Voltaire’s Candide, Sartre’s Nausea. It sets out to be intellectually provocative; to tease, vitalise and liberate our thought processes ... the success of Ward’s venture inevitably depends on the quality of the writing. This is often moving, exuberant and sensitive. We care about her characters and share their hopes and fears. Ward’s investigation and practice of empathy is easily the best thing in the book ... Ward exercises gifts of bravura wit and imagination.
MixedThe Guardian (UK)Satirical and carnivalesque elements entertain as one searches into the novel’s obscurities. Okri’s treatment of mass hysteria is inventive ... character and setting lack specificity. [Okri] claims that this novel is \'written in three languages: the language of fable ... of truth ... and of our secret predicament\'. This lofty and nebulous claim is made by a magus-novelist who exults in a kind of totalising of enigma and riddle, practising \'the conjuring power of the word\'. I confess that I often longed for the rationality of Samuel Johnson’s Rasselas, the wit of Voltaire’s Candide.
RaveThe Guardian (UK)Its compulsive readability is all the more remarkable since the story issues from such a dark place in the author\'s heart ... Can a work of mourning be a comedy? Uniquely, Toews has created a requiem with an antic disposition ... The story is told in running sprees of dialogue without quotation marks: we experience everything as it is heard in Yoli\'s mind. Both sisters are lovable, exuberant, quirky, in many respects mirror-opposites. Even in the story\'s closing stages, comedy and tragedy harp on the same tune.
RaveThe GuardianLandscape and seascape are central to poet Sue Hubbard’s elegiac story of loss and valediction. Newly widowed, Martha Cassidy returns to her husband’s writing retreat, a cottage on the Kerry coast, \'the end of the world with nothing between her and America except the cold sea\' ... Here Martha confronts her own ghosts. Beautifully, the novel’s structure raises to consciousness an anterior trauma buried in Brendan’s loss that had opened a rift in their marriage. Their only son, Bruno, died in childhood. Scarcely mentioned in the earlier chapters, he is gradually reclaimed for Martha through a landscape of memory ... Minor characters...dramatise the struggle between old and new. But Hubbard’s most profound effects occur when, keeping the narrative tight to Martha’s consciousness, she evokes what Romain Rolland’s famous letter to Freud called \'the oceanic feeling\' – the sensation of being one with the cosmos. \'When there’s nothing left,\' Brendan had written, \'there’s still the ocean and the sky\'; and his widow finds healing, \'merged with the rough brown scrub ... the grey mountains\'.
MixedThe GuardianThe staff take a dim view of Florence’s claims and shouting, and Cannon portrays with sympathetic understanding her state of mind when she is put \'on probation\': she has one month to prove she isn’t losing her marbles. The running theme here is the usurpation and bureaucratisation of the lives of the old by well-meaning institutions. I have reservations about the construction of this novel: it can be clunky, slow-paced, sententious and sentimental ... Florence’s character is lovely: sweet, sharp and argumentative, she brims with quips and retorts ... Comedy keeps the tone light. Only when Cannon is discussing the nursing home with which Florence is threatened does the tone savagely darken ... What is the \'third thing about Elsie\' advertised by the title? The reader intuits the answer, which, when it surfaces in the final chapter, is powerful and profound.
MixedThe GuardianSlowly – all too slowly, for Brownrigg is awkward with plot – the two women converge. The meeting is delayed until the final third of the novel, and their lives and problems in the 20-year gap are narrated according to a principle of detailed recapitulation ... Where Pages for You is ecstatic and poetic, the style of Pages for Her can seem overblown and cliched, as it seeks to raise its romance material into the sublime ... The scenes between loving mother and lovable daughter are the best thing in Pages for You. We feel Flannery’s dilemma acutely. But the issue of power relations between the sexes is skewed by Brownrigg’s grotesque stereotyping of Flannery’s husband Charles. A subtler portrait would have made Flannery’s predicament more complex and interesting ... Pages for Her is a romance novel which elevates and camouflages its generic elements by presenting them as reflections on women’s literary creativity: erotic love is treated as the crucible of true writing.
RaveThe Guardian\"Ruskovich’s human characters keep company with native animals, from moose to deer, from beetles to flies, subject to the same vicissitudes and the one death. The author’s sympathetic imagination extends, movingly, to all animal life, the child who is killed and the fly she may have killed ... Structurally, the novel is complex, requiring and rewarding a reader’s intent concentration. A fragmented construction zigzags to and fro between multiple perspectives and unchronological dates ... Idaho is a meditation on the power and limits of the individual imagination, as well as on memory and its aberrations. What can we understand or intuit about other people, given that our knowledge owes so much to subjective guesswork? ... In the final third of the novel, telling becomes excessively fragmentary, resembling short stories in a composite novel. At one point I failed to recognise a character and had to return to the beginning to identify him. That I was prepared to do so speaks volumes for the exceptional quality of Ruskovich’s writing.\