...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.
... 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.
...Afternoon of a Faun... explore[s] uncomfortable corners of the male psyche with eerie clarity...[and] goes darker and further, with a timely and irresistibly unpleasant story that is sure to provoke passionate discussion ... In an age of loud invective and binary solutions, there is something wonderful about Lasdun’s scrupulous recording of doubts and uncertainty. I like his unapologetic literariness and the unexpected way his books draw strength from artefacts of high culture ... Afternoon of a Faun that lingers after you have closed the book with a vividness that testifies to the compact virtues of the novella.
... an apropos commentary on the #MeToo movement from a male perspective ... Lasdun has a talent for crafting complex characters ... Lasdun highlights the importance of women communicating their true desires in the moment, rather than acquiescing under pressure to please their partner, as well as the necessity of men listening and respecting their boundaries ... Lasdun approaches this sensitive topic with empathy, and the satisfying sardonic ending intertwines with anticipation of the election results. The timeliness of Afternoon of A Faun does not necessarily date this novel, and the issues of sexuality and consent it addresses will no doubt be a topic of conversation for quite some time.
This is a timely story: It begins with the two men attending a talk on rape and memory ... A well-drawn portrait of two flawed but highly articulate Englishmen in New York, Afternoon of a Faun has a strong plotline ... It’s a dramatically apt reflection on female victimhood.
...Afternoon of a Faun...expertly unpick[s] the webs of deceit men weave through their lives—the lies that not only help advance their interests, but also prop up their ideas of themselves ... Afternoon of a Faun has a propulsive energy, as both reader and narrator yearn for an answer to the question: is Rosedale’s accuser telling the truth? The denouement, when it arrives, is shocking—with the journalist revealed to be far more capricious than his friend thought possible ... [This story] ought to be read—not just for...insights into 'toxic masculinity,' but for what they tell us about ways in which men think.
Afternoon of a Faun is a sustained meditation on the #MeToo movement, shining uncompromising light into the darkest areas of our current malaise ... Without spoiling anything, I want to bear witness to this novel’s most unnerving aspect: the Heisenbergian principle that no one—not any of us—can stand by and observe a desperate situation without actually affecting and even abetting its outcome.
Lasdun hooks the reader on his narrative with brief, tautly controlled chapters, each one adding new evidence and detail and relying on acute observation of the sometimes-bizarre machinations of the psyche ... Of the novels to come out of the #MeToo moment to date, none is more riveting, insightful, and unsettling. Lasdun is the perfect writer to navigate these troubled waters from the male perspective.
...thought-provoking ... Set in the days just after Trump won the Republican nomination—and referencing disgraced figures including Anthony Weiner and Roger Ailes—this novel comes to a brilliantly ironic conclusion that will leave readers reeling. Mainstream literary fiction readers will appreciate this one as well.