Our 7 Most Favorable Reviews in April 2024

  • May 3, 2024

We came, we read, we gushed. Here’s a recap of the titles that left us especially warm and swoony last month.

Our 7 Most Favorable Reviews in April 2024

The Blues Brothers: An Epic Friendship, the Rise of Improv, and the Making of an American Film Classic by Daniel de Visé (Atlantic Monthly Press). Reviewed by Michael Causey. “The chemistry fueling human relationships and connections can be magical and (despite the best efforts of songwriters and poets to capture it) pretty darn inscrutable, too. We don’t always love who we expect to love, or we surprise ourselves by being drawn — physically or otherwise — to someone who’s ‘not our type.’ Such a complex friendship is at the core of Daniel de Visé’s terrific new book about comedians and film stars John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd. While The Blues Brothers is ostensibly about the making of the iconic 1980 film of the same name, the book delivers far more.”

Vagabonds: Life on the Streets of Nineteenth-Century London by Oskar Jensen (The Experiment). Reviewed by Peggy Kurkowski. “The wonderfully diverse and resilient lives of London’s 19th-century street people captured in Oskar Jensen’s delightful Vagabonds, shortlisted for the Wolfson History Prize 2023, reveal what it was like to ‘live on the wrong side of history.’ Eschewing the predominant perspective of London’s street life made famous by its great chroniclers Charles Dickens and Henry Mayhew, Jensen chooses to look not at his subjects but rather with them as they make their homes and livelihoods in the streets.”

The Mars House: A Novel by Natasha Pulley (Bloomsbury Publishing). Reviewed by Mariko Hewer. “As they spend more time together, however, the Earth refugee and the Mars native find they share a surprising number of commonalities. While Gale does support forced naturalization, they see it merely as the best among a slate of bad options, and January comes to feel grudging respect for the complex calculations Gale must make. Similarly, watching January dance in Gale’s practice studio and talking to him about the difficulties he’s endured on Mars give Gale a more nuanced understanding of their new spouse’s history and hardships.”

Women! In! Peril!: Stories by Jessie Ren Marshall (Bloomsbury Publishing). Reviewed by Haley Huchler. “The stories in Jessie Ren Marshall’s debut collection span bizarre dystopias, gritty realities, and everything in between with clever control and electric wit. Women! In! Peril! presents 12 speculative tales about characters dealing with problems ranging from the mass extinction of the human race to co-parenting with an ex. Marshall’s striking voice rings loud and clear in each one as she probes the emotional complexities of being a woman who is, indeed, occasionally in peril.”

Revolusi: Indonesia and the Birth of the Modern World by David Van Reybrouck (W.W. Norton & Company). Reviewed by Todd Kushner. “He conducted formal interviews with 185 people in 20 different languages, scouring nursing homes and retirement communities to identify those who could tell their stories from seven or more decades prior. These efforts took five-and-a-half years and involved travel not only to the Netherlands and Indonesia but also to locations as far-flung as Tokyo, Berlin, and Nepal. In addition to these many interviews, Van Reybrouck drew on a wide variety of secondary sources (around 490 are listed in his bibliography) and extensive archival material. The firsthand narratives are enthralling.”

The Translator’s Daughter: A Memoir by Grace Loh Prasad (Mad Creek Books). Reviewed by Priyanka Champaneri. “The immigrant experience is sometimes touted as a blessing in an increasingly globalized world where being a cultural chameleon is the new currency. To speak multiple languages, to be at home in multiple places, is to be a citizen of the world. Loh Prasad, however, tells the story of how it was and is for her, a story that reflects the voices of those who are not so much confidently straddling cultures as stuck in the fissure between them, grasping for the lost hands that once held theirs.”

Out of the Darkness: The Germans, 1942-2022 by Frank Trentmann (Knopf). Reviewed by William Rice. “Despite delays and omissions, Germans have by now largely faced up to their terrible history. But Trentmann worries about how they’ve done it. Near the start of the book, he argues that no nation has ‘turned past sins into a source of civic pride like Germany’; toward the end, he modifies the diagnosis as a ‘pride in not being proud, [which] at times turn[s] into self-satisfaction.’ In other words, just as they excel at auto engineering, Germans have tried to become the best penitents in the world. The author is concerned that they’re missing the point.”

Subscribe to our newsletter here, and follow us on Instagram, X, Facebook, Pinterest, and Bluesky. Advertise with us here.

Believe in what we do? Support the nonprofit Independent!
comments powered by Disqus