...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.
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.
... offers readers a word of caution on fiction about accusations of sexual assault, this novel’s fraught subject. Because the writer has to decide which character is telling the truth, he gives the appearance of choosing a side in a broader public debate and his story is reduced to 'polemic or propaganda.' The lofty literary ideal of negative capability is impossible to achieve. Or is it? This is the question Mr. Lasdun unravels in his slippery, provoking and very timely new book ... Something fascinating and disturbing takes place: The book’s villain is neither the accused nor the accuser but the ostensibly impartial onlooker spinning a painful and private event into a morality play. In our moment of rampant #MeToo voyeurism, this sleight of hand works to devastating effect. The term #MeToo was coined to suggest solidarity but in Mr. Lasdun’s unsettling book it speaks to something else: collective guilt.