War and Turpentine affords the sensory pleasures of a good novel while also conveying the restlessness of memoir through its probing, uncertain narrator ... a masterly book about memory, art, love and war ... In a world of novels with overdetermined, linear plotlines — their chapters like so many boxcars on a freight train — War and Turpentine delivers a blast of narrative fresh air.
War and Turpentine is the astonishing result of Hertmans’ reckoning with his grandfather’s diaries. It is a book that lies at the crossroads of novel, biography, autobiography and history ... Narratives of the first world war are not exactly thin on the ground, but even with such bristling competition it is undeniable that these 90 pages are some of the most distilled expression of unremitting horror ... has all the markings of a future classic.
... an uncanny work of historical reconstruction ... The result is a gritty yet melancholy account of war and memory and art that may remind some readers of the work of the German writer W. G. Sebald ... Urbain Martien was a man of another time. This serious and dignified book is old-fashioned, too, in the pleasant sense that it seems built to last.