Though each of the pieces works well individually, taken collectively, Letter to Pessoa presents a multifaceted world that builds new linguistic spaces through correspondence and conjunction. By blurring the distinctions between author and narrator/narration, reader/writer/voyeur, past/present, and even life/death, Cahill has created an exciting and powerful collection that continues to shift, change and reveal new insight with each re-reading.
Henry James created characters able to embody his concern for elegance, intelligence, morality, and social ritual; and his work attains intellectual and spiritual dimension of a high degree—and his style, thoughtful, textured, teasing, can be complex to the point of profound obscurity, requiring attention, consideration, and deep understanding. The drama is increased for all that.
The Natural Way of Things is an easy book to read but a hard one to digest. It holds up a mirror that shows an ugly reflection of the relationship between capitalism and misogyny that once glimpsed cannot be unseen. Though it’s disturbing, The Natural Way of Things is also powerful, beautiful, and utterly important.
However, this is a book that once opened cannot be put down till the last satisfying page. Erika Swylers elegant style shines through in a way that will leave the reader longing for the release of her second novel. If it is anything like this one, Erika is destined for the best-seller lists.
Obviously Robin Gregory is a well-read writer. Not only does she mimic Homer’s “wine dark sea” with the novel’s opening of “dories…and spider crabs flood[ing] the beach like a ghostly pink tide,” but also refers back to great YA series like A Series of Unfortunate Events through her grim imaginativeness. Gritty magical realism is in vogue, if we account for the non-YA St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised By Wolves by Karen Russell and Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi beside which The Improbable Wonders holds its own.
The Arrival of Missives is an immensely readable book. It contains delightfully light characterizations in which people are encapsulated by a phrase, a tone of voice, a gesture. And, towards the end of the novel, intentionally or not (what does it matter?), there is an image straight out of Hamlet that provides beauty and horror in equal measure.
Every story told in the book is written as a past memory and Lucy intertwines her own reflections as she tells her story. The story is told through the narrator’s point of view in the same fashion one would write a memoir about his or her own life. What Elizabeth Strout has done so brilliantly is convinced readers that Lucy’s life is real and we are a part of it.
Solange’s journey is one that takes her into her own heart of darkness, where she finds her limitations, her humiliations and restrictions, and the cultural, political, gendered and racial stereotypes through which she has defined herself. Throughout the novel she begins to unravel these, unwinding herself slowly until she is temporarily removed altogether as subject.
It takes strength of character to pursue, and create, human wretchedness in all its shapes for 360 pages. Like many unreliable narrators before him, Norman K ranges from obnoxious to villainous in his pretension, and The Diary of Norman K shows how uniquely we puts on airs, down to a style of speech best described by his “friend” Russell as “an Elizabethan aristocrat who had just woken up from a two-hundred-year coma.
Beneath the fun, fast, and well-plotted story, is a deep poetic exploration of yearning, creativity, and the constrictions of poverty. The characters live between pulses of transcendence that take place as they struggle to create meaning from their hand-to-mouth lives.