RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewThis compression of a millennium inside a single sentence — a contemporary writer gazing through his window at a medieval world — introduces us to the novelistic sleight of hand Hertmans is intent on bringing off ... One of the great challenges of writing historical fiction is deploying the research without calling attention to it. Hertmans dismisses this obligation with a bold announcement: Hey, I did research! ... My first inclination was to balk at this authorial intrusion, but Hertmans is so honestly frustrated and miserable in the modern world that I felt sorry for him ... Hertmans habitually treats the reader to his process ... The novel is an astonishingly capacious form; like Whitman, it can contain multitudes ... an imaginative flight ... It is, as it says right there on the cover, nothing less than a novel. And it’s a really good one.
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewLizzie Fawkes is a naïve young woman, but she’s not a naïve narrator. There’s no device or subtext to her story. Birdcage Walk is not a novel in the form of a diary, a memoir, a letter or an internal monologue; Lizzie’s voice comes out of the air. Occasionally, and for no apparent reason, she slips into the present tense. In this and other ways, Birdcage Walk defies and includes a number of genres; it steadfastly refuses to be one thing. And why should it? Why narrow the scope of what a novel can do? The plot meanders, surprises. The characters are thoughtful, complex and irritating; sometimes they just talk about ideas. Helen Dunmore died in June of cancer. Increasingly ill as she worked on this book, she observes in its afterword that 'under such a growing shadow,' the novel 'cannot help being full of a sharper light, rather as a landscape becomes brilliantly distinct in the last sunlight before a storm.' That sharp light illuminates the canvas of Birdcage Walk and gives it a charged radiance. It has a tenuous, momentary feel, as if one were reading a Turner painting. The storm will blot it out.
Edward P. Jones
RaveThe GuardianOne great achievement of Edward Jones's Pulitzer prize-winning novel The Known World is the circumscription of its moral vision, which locates the struggle between good and evil not in the vicissitudes of the diabolical slaveholding system of the American south, but inside the consciousness of each person, black or white, slave or free, who attempts to flourish within that soul-deadening system ...a 19th-century concoction, rich in character and plot, comprised of chapters with ironic titles...narrated by an omniscient voice that can penetrate into the souls of the characters even as they leave their bodies behind ...a voice that understands the madness of slavery as part of a grander picture, one that begins with bright angels clanging closed the gates on our progenitors, and Satan.
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewIt’s beyond love. It’s knowledge. That’s what George Eliot had and so, I’m pleased to report, does Elizabeth Tallent. It doesn’t matter if she’s a good person, or even a nice one. (I don’t know her. I hope she’s nice.) When a writer can tell a story as beautifully, as thoroughly and with as much knowledge as Elizabeth Tallent possesses, no one should care.