It offers a vast, acute panoply of London and the English countryside, and successfully locates the social controversies of an era in a handful of characters ... Touchet is the most morally intelligent character Smith has written ... The book’s structure is uneven. One wishes, for instance, that the chapters would signal their time jumps more consistently ... But these infelicities stop mattering when we are deep into the trial and the book turns into a portrait of people with thwarted ambitions, of people who, like Ainsworth, become frauds without knowing ... As always, it is a pleasure to be in Zadie Smith’s mind, which, as time goes on, is becoming contiguous with London itself. Dickens may be dead, but Smith, thankfully, is alive.
A Dickensian delight ... [A] brilliant new entry in Smith’s catalogue ... That the entire tapestry flows so seamlessly across decades, weaving in shared intimacies, massive crowd scenes and dusty literary gossip, is a testament to Smith’s craft ... There is, in fact, nothing musty or 'historical' about Touchet’s arch voice or the timeless parade of literary and political folly that animates the novel.
Smartly rendered, true to its own time while also deeply reflective of ours, it’s a terrific novel, perhaps Smith’s finest ... Smith’s narrative voice...is sharp, insinuating, marked by her point of view ... A novel of sublime empathy, in which the author’s voice and perspective bestow a contemporary edge.