PositiveThe Times (UK)There is more than a touch of surrealism in this, as well as a certain amount of what Kingsley Amis might have described as \'buggering around with the reader\' in the shifting narrative perspective. It’s fortunate then that you don’t read Banville for his taut plots. But flick to a page in any of his novels and soon you will come to a sentence or an image so perfectly contrived it stops you for a moment, achingly, like a beautiful stranger passing in the street ... From all this you get the sense that Banville is hanging loose, writing not to be accessible or comprehended, but simply for his own sensual joy ... Reading The Singularities...is like spending a weekend inside the little bubble of Banville’s imagination. It’s pleasant enough for the most part.
Serhii Rudenko tr. Michael M. Naydan and Alla Perminova
MixedThe Times (UK)Had Zelensky known then of the atrocities that would soon come to pass following his election victory four months later, would he have chosen to run? This kind of retrospective what-ifery features regularly in Serhii Rudenko’s hastily daubed portrait of a man still living through the most defining days of his life ... The author’s willingness to write about those less glorious episodes in the life of a man who has come to be regarded as a paragon of courage, is laudable. Had this book been started from scratch in March 2022, then surely a more flattering work would have been written. Rudenko’s book, though, was first published in Ukraine last year under the title Zelensky Without Make-Up. Since the start of the war, it has been updated and translated into English to capitalise on his international acclaim ... However, the stitches of this hurriedly fashioned book are glaringly on show. Translators Michael Naydan and Alla Parminova worked \'around the clock\' to get the book finished on deadline, say the publishers. I can believe it, given how syntactically and tonally alien much of the book is to standard English ... What’s more bewildering though is that a lot of the book isn’t actually about the person whose name is on the front cover. Told through a series of chronologically jumbled \'episodes\', the biography places undue amounts of attention to Zelensky’s coterie of enablers and acolytes, particularly between the time frame of 2019-2020. While this might not be unreasonable for a longer biography, Rudenko’s book has only 200 pages. In one “episode” dealing with his childhood, Rudenko seems almost to become distracted from the facts of Zelensky’s life, meandering off to a detailed description of the boy who sat next to him at school ... This is all the more frustrating because Zelensky is an extraordinary man with an extraordinary life tale. And yet reading this book, one gets little sense of that.
PositiveThe Times (UK)... [a] fascinating account ... a collection of encounters with these noble families, and Egremont introduces us to a wide cast of them, so wide that sometimes you might find yourself looking for a crib sheet of names, the sort they helpfully insert at the front of fat Russian novels. What strikes you while reading is how few native Estonians and Latvians are met along the way. We hear them echoing through the past in the snatches of bawdy song sung by the peasantry on summer nights while reaping the harvest ... But for writers such as Egremont this complex relationship with the past makes for fertile territory, and The Glass Wall succeeds in delivering a rich, nuanced account of life on \'the Baltic frontier\'.