PositiveThe New York Review of BooksNothing extreme, nothing unmannerly; it’s all a little bit gray, as if the novel itself were as determined as Subhash to refuse any moment of emotional crisis. That makes Lahiri sound cautious, and in reading her I have in fact sometimes wished she would break her own rules, and allow herself to flower into extravagance. Yet restraint has a daring of its own, and The Lowland is her finest work so far … Lahiri takes no explicit position, and reading The Lowland made me recall one of Stendhal’s most famous aphorisms: politics in a novel are like a pistol shot in the middle of a concert. They are entirely out of place but impossible to ignore, and though Lahiri herself has put those politics in, she also wants us to look away from them, to concentrate on the spectators instead of the struggle around the gun.
The Narrow Road to the Deep NorthRichard Flanagan
PositiveThe New York Times Sunday Book ReviewFlanagan has done something difficult here, creating a character who is at once vivid and shadowy. In his long postwar life, Dorrigo will see his own moments of heroism as if performed by someone else. He fulfills his duty while remaining separate from it, and as a husband and father is most often an absent presence … Flanagan manages these shifts in time and perspective with extraordinary skill. They’re never confusing but they are dizzying, and demand the reader’s full attention in a way that reminds me of Conrad. I suspect that on rereading, this magnificent novel will seem even more intricate, more carefully and beautifully constructed.
MixedThe Daily BeastThough Canada has every bit of its predecessors’ ambition, Ford works here from a different part of his sensibility. Put simply, he writes differently about the American West than he does about the East … The novel isn’t perfect, and the bit of back-story that Ford uses to move the book toward its climax seems mishandled, a MacGuffin that’s too busy for its own good. But no matter; plot has never been what his work is really about. Canada is Richard Ford’s best book since Independence Day, and despite its robbery and killings it too depends on its voice, a voice oddly calm and marked by the spare grandeur of its landscape.
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewNoonday seems just a bit smaller than Pat Barker at her best, however readable and indeed enthralling, and however much its stakes are matters of life and death — smaller than when art and history were on the table as well.
This Long Pursuit: Reflections of a Romantic BiographerRichard Holmes
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalSome of the 15 essays here are autobiographical, but most provide an elegant glance at one historical figure or another, often those associated with Mr. Holmes’s earlier work ... This Long Pursuit can stand either as an introduction to his full-length works or as a reminder of what makes them so compelling.
When We Were Orphans
RaveThe New York Times...with When We Were Orphans, Ishiguro appears to have found his synthesis, not only in its expansive yet finely modulated narrative but also in the way it bends the hallucinatory world of its immediate predecessor toward the surface verisimilitude of the butler's story ...seem like another deft postmodern exercise, a historical novel that's not concerned with the life of the past so much as with its literary assumptions. Yet Ishiguro stops just short of parody, and though he won't let his readers surrender to the genre, he doesn't condescend to it either ... The orphan's life is never fully his own, but seems instead as secondhand as the form of this novel itself, so brilliant in its tireless echoes of earlier texts. When We Were Orphans goes much farther than even The Remains of the Day in its examination of the roles we've had handed to us.
The Burning GirlClaire Messud
PositiveThe New York Review of BooksAlmost every page in this novel draws attention to its telling. Its suspense-inducing first sentence establishes a note of foreboding, and yet its full burden doesn’t become clear until the book’s last pages. Messud plays no metafictional or self-reflexive tricks, but the book does offer a continuous loop of narrative, and even the most careful reader will want to return to that beginning with the novel’s ending in mind … To me the book’s concluding pages have too many moving parts, as Messud shifts between Cassie’s unfolding story and the lessons Julia draws from it, the part it plays in her own quickening maturation. Nevertheless The Burning Girl as a whole is both piercingly intelligent and emotionally acute, its ambition at odds with its apparently modest scale.