All Reviews

If Death Becomes Cheap

Alice Kelly, Commemorative Modernisms: Women Writers, Death and the First World War

reviewed by Lizzie Hibbert

The death of somebody you love changes everything. In her meditation on the unexpected death of her son, Time Lived, Without Its Flow (2012), Denise Riley writes that in the moments after the news of a loss, ‘[n]othing has changed, and yet it all has.’ You hang up the phone call that broke the bad news to find that the room has shifted around you somehow; you step outside the hospital, after saying goodbye, into air that smells strange and new. The next morning, when you wake up, the sun... [read more]

Scattered, Purposeless and Cold

Lauren Oyler, Fake Accounts

reviewed by Nicholas Harris

When the presiding critic of English letters, James Wood, is particularly exercised by a novel, he writes a parody. Most memorably, Zadie Smith in 2000 and Paul Auster in 2009 received this treatment, a ruthless paragraph lampooning the former’s ‘hysterical realism’ and the latter’s metafictional banality. Upon finishing Fake Accounts, I wondered if Lauren Oyler had attempted something similar at book length. Though not yet any challenger to Wood, Oyler is certainly cooler than him, at... [read more]

Ownership and Theft

Shola von Reinhold, LOTE

reviewed by Leon Craig

Mathilda has been escaping for a long time. Slipping between aliases, from home to home, away from patronising friends she resents but depends on for favours, she is a daring chancer and a mistress of reinvention. She has worked out early and decisively that ‘miserly as they are, rich people will happily prop up their own kind for years. If they, however, discover they are suspending someone not of their own kind, unwittingly dangling them by a thread, they will start to feel charitable,... [read more]

Eeek. Eeek. Eeek.

Souvankham Thammavongsa, How to Pronounce Knife

reviewed by Beatrice Tridimas

Souvankham Thammavongsa’s debut short story collection, How to Pronounce Knife, is every bit as poetic, heart-wrenching and poignant as its title suggests. Utterly original and rich in emotion, these stories follow the lives of Laotian immigrants who, severed from their past, seek happiness, love and a sense of belonging. The title story, ‘How to Pronounce Knife,’ is the perfect introduction to this series of poignant explorations of hope, resilience and coming to terms with somewhere... [read more]

Creaky Little Hinge

Brian Dillon, Suppose a Sentence

reviewed by Rod Moody-Corbett

‘Now feebly commence a sentence,’ with a lark or a plunge, with a little doff of the syntactical hat to Donald Barthelme, whose single-sentence seven-page story ‘Sentence’ begins ‘Or a long sentence moving at a certain pace down the page aiming for the bottom — if not the bottom of this page then of some other page — where it can rest, or stop for a moment to think about the questions raised by its own (temporary) existence,’ the opening sentence of Brian Dillon’s Suppose a... [read more]

Paranoid Chatter

Don DeLillo, The Silence

reviewed by Gabriel Flynn

According to the philosopher Theodor Adorno, the ‘maturity’ of the late works of important artists ‘is not like the ripeness of fruit’. Late works, he says, ‘are not well rounded, but wrinkled, even fissured. They are apt to lack sweetness, fending off with prickly tartness those interested merely in sampling them.’ Few would likely recommend The Silence, Don DeLillo’s 18th novel and his prickliest yet, to a reader interested in sampling his work. The Silence is awkward, full... [read more]

Imperfect Images

Aaron Tugendhaft, The Idols of ISIS: From Assyria to the Internet

reviewed by Farah Abdessamad

There’s an eery similarity between the desecration of churches in the height of the French Terror, the destruction of the ‘Four Olds’ during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, the toppling of Lenin statues at the fall of the Soviet Union and more recently in 2020, the movement which coalesced to abjure Confederate and other slavery-associated symbols. All revolutions seek to destroy the old order to affirm the new, it is said. In Idols of ISIS, Aaron Tugendhaft, a descendent of Iraqi... [read more]

Weird Objects in Improbable Situations

Helen Marten, The Boiled in Between

reviewed by Huw Nesbitt

In early December, something strange happened on Twitter: someone wrote something funny. Or to be more precise, someone posted something funny — a screenshot from an article by The Spectator’s Panagiotis Theodoracopulos explaining why, having exhausted ‘the Russians’ and a dozen other authors, he’d stopped reading 50 years ago because new literature, he protested, contained ‘millions of words that didn’t exactly get to the point, instead describing weird objects in improbable... [read more]

But the Living Will Not be Reduced

Ali Smith, Summer

reviewed by Fintan Calpin

In his classic study of The English Novel: From Dickens to Lawrence (1970), Raymond Williams wonders what was emerging in England between 1847 and 1848 during the prodigious 20 months which saw the publication of Dombey and Son, Wuthering Heights, Vanity Fair, Jane Eyre, Mary Barton, Tancred, Town and Country and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Of course, the answer is in the list. What was emerging, at least in part, was the novel: ‘a new kind of consciousness’. The task left for us today is... [read more]

Larger than Life

Phoebe Stuckes, Platinum Blonde

reviewed by Nina Hanz

‘Their heavy footsteps, out of tune with the timbre / of my stilettos. I wasn’t wearing stilettos / but I think you will imagine that I was’. In ‘Bleach’, the opening poem of Phoebe Stuckes’ debut poetry collection Platinum Blonde, these lines strike upon two key themes which unravel throughout the book. First, they introduce the object of scale, mass and excess: the heavy steps of a wide gait, the light timbre of a quick shuffle, this also occurs earlier in the poem, ‘I liked the... [read more]