Set during the tumultuous middle of the George W. Bush years—amid the twin catastrophes of the Iraq insurgency and Hurricane Katrina—Landfall brings Thomas Mallon's cavalcade of contemporary American politics, which began with Watergate and continue with Finale, to a final climax.
Landfall is a romance — a romance in which the president repeatedly intercedes, rom-com fashion — set against the machinations concerning the administration’s defining failure in Iraq ... Mallon’s portrayals of most of his well-known main characters are flattering. But he’s also entertainingly bitchy ... the [George W. Bush] of Landfall is unbelievably wonderful. He makes charming fun of his reputation for ignorance In this book his biggest problem, which Mallon diagnoses well, is a fundamental uneasiness, the lack of an even keel ... I was surprised how little space such a thoughtful writer devotes in this long novel to the awful particulars of its central catastrophe. He’s too easy on everyone ... But still, Landfall is smart and knowing and absorbing. It is to novels as good studio movies are to movies — extremely well made, satisfying if you have a taste for the genre, occasionally excellent. The prose is a pleasure ... Fiction is supposed to provide glimpses inside people different from us. As a one-of-a-kind artifact of pre-2016 Late Republicanism, Landfall is fascinating.
At its best, Mallon’s amusing new novel, Landfall, operates like the thought-bubble we’d always wanted ... Mallon has done his homework and his novel delves, at times a tad too exhaustively, into the kaleidoscope of events and characters of the Bush era — everyone from Christopher Hitchens and John Edwards to Merv Griffin and Nancy Reagan ... Landfall occasionally gets a bit too goofy, such as a clunky scene that comes out of nowhere — and adds little to the narrative — involving a sex tryst between a high-ranking U.S. official and a Canadian diplomat.
As in Mr. Mallon’s many other novels, the writing is crisp and witty, the central characters complex and sympathetic in surprising ways, the narrative structure tight. The constant use of italics, as if Mr. Mallon doesn’t trust his readers to know where to place the emphasis, is one mild annoyance in an otherwise superbly written novel ... This is a work of the imagination, and I have no firsthand knowledge of the 43rd president, but Mr. Mallon’s rendering is far more faithful to the evidence than the caricatures we read for a decade in the media.