Our 7 Most Favorable Reviews in April 2023
- May 3, 2023
We came, we read, we gushed. Here’s a recap of the titles that left us especially warm and swoony last month.
The Adventure of the Castle Thief and Other Expeditions and Indiscretions by Art Taylor (Crippen & Landru). Reviewed by Mariko Hewer. “One of the most poignant stories in the collection, ‘Blue Plate Special,’ invokes magical mirrors that allow people to look into the past. To the uninitiated, of course, this seems suspicious. ‘While I finished washing up, I noticed something else,’ remarks the narrator. ‘The men beside me weren’t actually looking at themselves in the mirror but at a slant, each of them, angling their gaze toward the backs of the men behind them maybe or sometimes at an empty urinal. More codes, I thought, but I still couldn’t see who was receiving them.’ After he discovers the mirror’s secret, everything changes. Here and elsewhere, The Adventure of the Castle Thief and Other Expeditions and Indiscretions offers an exhilarating set of excursions and incautions, just like its title promises.”
The Language of Trees: A Rewilding of Literature and Landscape by Katie Holten (Tin House). Reviewed by Samantha Neugebauer. “In her afterword, Holten calls The Language of Trees ‘a love letter to a vanishing world.’ She says by reading in her font, we’re forced to slow down and ‘re-read everything.’ It’s true, like when you begin reading in a second language. Moreover, we can download her Trees font and write with it ourselves, which is what I did with this review after first completing it in English. It seemed only fitting to talk about those long-gone oaks of my childhood in a language celebrating their world. Try it yourself.”
Judgment and Mercy: The Turbulent Life and Times of the Judge Who Condemned the Rosenbergs by Martin J. Siegel (Three Hills Press). Reviewed by Diane Kiesel. “Eventually, the calls for his head subsided. As the decade wore on and America moved to the right — again — nothing came of attempts to hold him accountable, although he remained obsessed with the subject, constantly discussing the Rosenberg case with friends in the legal community. After Kaufman’s death, the U.S. government opened the records of its top-secret ‘Venona’ project, which revealed that Julius Rosenberg was, indeed, a Russian spy, and Ethel, while probably not directly involved, was certainly aware of her husband’s espionage. While that revelation might’ve muted criticism about what happened to Julius, it only added to the chorus of outrage over Ethel’s fate.”
We Were Once a Family: A Story of Love, Death, and Child Removal in America by Roxanna Asgarian (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). Reviewed by Alice Stephens. “We Were Once a Family is a heartbreaking and infuriating portrait of a broken system that favors family separation and punishment over social services and compassion. It’s also a galvanizing call for reform of the racist and classist policies that encourage the breakup of poor families in order to place children with more ‘desirable’ ones. These challenges are manifold and go to the very root of the ills that beset our nation, but as Dontay’s story makes clear, neglecting the most vulnerable only deepens the cracks in an already fractured society.”
There Will Be Fire: Margaret Thatcher, the IRA, and Two Minutes That Changed History by Rory Carroll (G.P. Putnam’s Sons). Reviewed by Todd Kushner. “Veteran journalist Rory Carroll draws on hundreds of hours of original reporting supplemented by information from documentaries, memoirs, and contemporary press accounts to provide a gripping narrative of the bombing and the events that precipitated and followed it. He relates the main events so effectively that readers practically live them. He also puts developments in historical context, placing them in the arc of the long, fraught chronicle of Anglo-Irish relations.”
Who Gets Believed?: When the Truth Isn’t Enough by Dina Nayeri (Catapult). Reviewed by Gretchen Lida. “As the chapters progress, the very concept of what constitutes ‘well enough’ becomes murkier and murkier. However, this book isn’t just about refugees. It dissects the concept of believability on multiple levels and via multiple individuals, including Nayeri herself, who reflects on her own efforts to convince her doctor that she truly did wish to give birth via C-section. Here and elsewhere, with nuance and precision, she examines those with power and those without it, those whose mental-health issues unfairly make them hard to believe, and even those whose astonishing grift — made possible by their Oscar-worthy performances — make us question the concept of ‘truth’ entirely.”
A Brutal Reckoning: Andrew Jackson, the Creek Indians, and the Epic War for the American South by Peter Cozzens (Knopf). Reviewed by Peggy Kurkowski. “A Brutal Reckoning is an engrossing and objective study of the war that opened American expansion into the Deep South in the early 19th century and sent a proud Native American people into exile. Impressively detailed, it provides the definitive account of the Creek confederacy and its failure to overcome its own divisions in the face of a militantly expansionist white nation.”
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