...an instant masterpiece that brings the taut psychological precision of a Chekhov story to a hyper-modern, post-#MeToo setting ... The depiction of [a] dying circle of 'left-leaning bourgeois bohemians' is pitch-perfect ... Lasdun’s limpid, muscular prose cuts to the heart of midlife anxieties ... Lasdun doesn’t put a foot wrong ... [Afternoon of a Faun is] suspenseful and truthful, familiar in... subject matter but audacious in...conclusions.
...brilliant ... Lasdun’s writing spreads implication like condensed flavor crystals that dissolve in water. By the end of the novel, he has examined every corner of the narrator’s conflicted psyche and surveyed an ever-shifting social question without once resorting to cliché. The book achieves a state of suspension that is at once fascinating, draining, and dismal—one imagines oneself, along with the narrator, vacillating forever, doubting, arguing both sides, weaving and unweaving webs of justification and delusion. But an objective truth does exist here, and, finally, Lasdun reveals it. The shock of this moment owes to how tightly the book’s psychological mechanisms are wound ... Lasdun marries autofiction to the more obviously stylized genre of the psychological thriller, deploying cliffhangers and the trope of the unreliable narrator. This is a neat idea: autofictional garnishes on a suspense novel can create a sense of claustrophobia, or become an eerie extra quotient of human consciousness, as if another pair of eyes were watching ... Faun might be an act of exorcism or masochism or dark curiosity, an alternate history of an incident whose truth can never be known.
Afternoon of a Faun succeeds because its villain is our narrator. He is not a villain the way Lasdun’s other men are—he is neither mad nor oblivious. He does nothing illegal, nor even anything obviously wrong. He is a kind, contemplative, loyal man, the sort who hates the idea of harming anybody ... The Afternoon of a Faun is a highly conscientious novel, elegant in its execution and almost humble in its refusal to grandstand, or to turn a story about rape allegations into some didactic allegory.