RaveThe Wall Street JournalMr. Rash is elegant and economical. The Risen is a beautiful piece of craftsmanship ... The river scenes with Ligeia are beautifully done, as Eugene recovers the innocent hopefulness of youth ... I’ve long thought Ron Rash as good as any contemporary American novelist I’ve read. This lovely and disturbing book confirms that opinion.
MixedThe Wall Street Journal...the author recognizes the importance of keeping the narrative jogging along. Mr. Fellowes dishes up the traditional mixture of mystery and romance. He provides us with a secret marriage, sudden deaths, a missing heir, snobbery and class distinction, loyal and disloyal servants, grand parties, some seedy scenes in gambling dens and low taverns, a spot of adultery, jealous rivalries, attempted murder. It is all agreeably familiar ... Mr. Fellowes is an easy writer—by which I mean one who makes for easy reading—and the narrative rattles along. It’s likely that you will quite soon see where it is tending, but the journey is enjoyable ... the author has set out to offer entertainment and has provided it. Yet it isn’t unreasonable to think that there might have been more to Belgravia if the author’s imagination had been more fully engaged; that, for instance, the characters might occasionally have surprised one.
ScarpiaPiers Paul Read
RaveThe Wall Street JournalMr. Read’s understanding of the nature, and consequences, of ideological wars makes this a historical novel for grown-ups ... And what a pleasure it is to read a novel by an author who knows precisely what he is doing and how to achieve his aim. Mr. Read has no time for the tyranny of creative writing schools, with their insistence that you should 'show, not tell.' He knows that there is a time for showing and a time for telling, that a narrative is first a thing told or recounted and that showing tends to slow the story. Piers Paul Read is one of England’s most accomplished novelists, and Scarpia is among his finest novels.
The Other ParisLuc Sante
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalHe has written a wonderfully rich book, packed with information, lively in style, evoking the turbulence of a vanished time and city. Admittedly it often verges on sentimentality, and is soaked in nostalgia.
The KidRon Hansen
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalGuns were aimed at him and he shot back. This at least is how Mr. Hansen tells the story; and he does so persuasively ... without excessively palliating the Kid’s crimes, Mr. Hansen has you wondering how this intelligent and likeable young man might have turned out with better guidance in a different environment ... The Kid is a Romance, for all its documentary-style realism. But why not? The Western remains something uniquely American, a myth gone global. The real Kid may have been nastier than this figure from Romance, but so what? This is the West, and as the famous line from The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance has it, 'when the legend becomes fact, print the legend.' Which is what Mr. Hansen has done, very enjoyably.
RaveThe Wall Street JournalMr. Harris’s plotting is deft; there are as many ingenious twists as in an Agatha Christie novel. Yet all are credible, and the sense of tense seriousness is never disturbed ... Conclave can be read as a thriller. It is indeed a thriller and a very good one, written with the authority that comes from the combination of scrupulous research and a sympathetic imagination. So it is more than a thriller; it is a novel of ideas, and one in which the author’s characters are tested, some diminishing, others growing as the story unfolds. I couldn’t imagine this theme being better treated.
The HorsemanTim Pears
RaveThe Wall Street JournalMr. Pears has not only engaged in prodigious research to bring this vanished world to life; he has so thoroughly absorbed his research that he seems to be recalling what he describes from his own experience. You might think he was crouched under a table listening to what is said ... I look forward to reading these promised volumes, for this is a wonderful novel. As with all good fiction, especially—strange as it may seem—the best fiction, echoes of other novels sound in your ear...the novel which came persistently to mind as I read this was another masterpiece of the years before World War I, Alain-Fournier’s Le Grand Meaulnes. The settings and stories are very different but, like Alain-Fournier, Tim Pears combines a down-to-earth rendering of the realities of rural life with a magical sense of another world beyond our everyday experience.
The Essex SerpentSarah Perry
RaveThe Wall Street JournalThe Essex Serpent is a very fine and intelligent novel; not only that, but a richly enjoyable one. Ms. Perry writes beautifully and sometimes agreeably sharply ... The Essex Serpent is most easily discussed as a novel of ideas, and it is indeed that, and a very good one. But it has the virtues of the traditional novels, too: a strong narrative full of surprises; thoroughly imagined characters whose relationships with one another are credible and complicated; and those descriptive passages which not only paint a picture but create an atmosphere. In short, The Essex Serpent is a wonderfully satisfying novel.
Golden HillFrancis Spufford
RaveThe Wall Street Journal[Spufford] has devised an elegant plot (with an agreeable twist). He has also devised an adventure story packed with dramatic incident. But the novel is very much a literary work, too, echoing classic novelists of the 18th century, notably Fielding and Smollett. The dialogue has an 18th-century ring as well but manages to achieve a distinctive individual tone ... But Golden Hill differs from its models in one crucial respect: It is not a picaresque story of its hero’s wanderings but a taut drama ... Golden Hill is a remarkable achievement—remarkable, especially, in its intelligent re-creation of the early years of what was to become America’s greatest city.
See What I Have DoneSarah Schmidt
PositiveThe Wall Street Journal[Schmidt] undoubtedly faced two distinct challenges: first, creating an atmosphere in which, granting the family’s gentility, the crimes become believable; and second, leaving the question of “whodunit” teasingly open as long as possible. She has met both challenges splendidly ... It’s a gripping and still puzzling story, and Ms. Schmidt contrives to make her version persuasive. In some respects the novel is over-written. Blood jumps. Words are snarled or spat out. When Lizzie eats cake, she says that she lets 'the deliciousness form soft pyramids in my cheeks.' Ms. Schmidt’s intelligent treatment of the story makes such strained writing feel irritatingly superfluous. That said, See What I Have Done is a credible imagining of a bizarre episode. It also offers a convincing explanation of why, a dozen years after the murders, Emma suddenly left the house that she and Lizzie had bought and lived in together since the trial and never spoke to her again.