Our 7 Most Favorable Reviews in May 2023

  • June 2, 2023

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 May 2023

Once Upon a Prime: The Wondrous Connections Between Mathematics and Literature by Sarah Hart (Flatiron Books). Reviewed by John P. Loonam. “In high school, I learned that the world is divided in half: Some of us are math and science people, and some of us are humanities people. I look back on that lesson with regret — it allowed me to justify my poor effort and poor grades in math class — but life has since provided a number of reasons why giving up on math was a bad idea. Now Sarah Hart has provided another one, while calling the division itself into question. Once Upon a Prime is her new study of the ‘Connections between Mathematics and Literature.’ It is a playful, generous book that wears its considerable erudition lightly and offers a welcome mat to those of us who find ourselves on one side of the divide and trying to cross over.”

Small Mercies: A Novel by Dennis Lehane (Harper). Reviewed by Bob Duffy. “For Lehane’s Small Mercies heroine, and for readers, there are stark epiphanies along Mary Pat’s headlong descent, heartbreaking moments as her one-time certainties are wrenched away. Through every suspenseful turn, a remarkable effect persists. Through every bloody excess on her careening march toward a dire awakening, this Boston mother remains wholly sympathetic. We’re behind her all the way, battered and noble, with Southie allotting her only small mercies. This is a novel aglow with brilliant, painful ironies, a virtuoso demonstration of skill and control in revenge-tragedy form. Don’t let this book pass you by.”

The Wager: A Tale of Shipwreck, Mutiny and Murder by David Grann (Doubleday). Reviewed by Mariko Hewer. “This might have been the end of the tale, except that four years later, ‘a boat arrived in Dover, carrying a thin, stern man with eyes fixed like bayonets. It was the long-lost Captain David Cheap, and accompanying him were the marine lieutenant, Thomas Hamilton, and the midshipman John Byron.’ And Cheap was furious. The men who had returned earlier were, he insisted, mutineers who had betrayed the sacrosanct naval code and left him and others to die. The British Navy, realizing that this conflict had taken place under extraordinary circumstances, waffled when doling out consequences. Luckily for readers, many of the survivors penned and published their own version of events, leading to the wealth of information author Grann drew on to write The Wager. His resulting narrative is as harrowing as it is enthralling.”

Double or Nothing: A Double O Novel by Kim Sherwood (William Morrow). Reviewed by Art Taylor. “But fresh works and adaptations that skip past high-level pastiche can reframe our views on a beloved figure or spin a series in a new direction. In that context, Kim Sherwood’s Double or Nothing — the first in a planned series focusing on MI6 agents beyond 007 — delivers a thrilling experience on various levels, both honoring tradition and pushing forward into uncharted territory. It promises to offer greater diversity across a new generation of superspies; updates to familiar characters and elements; and a bit of contemporary thematic urgency.”

Juno Loves Legs: A Novel by Karl Geary (Catapult). Reviewed by Mike Maggio. “Sometimes, a novel comes along that touches you like no other. It might be the storyline that tears at your emotions, or perhaps the idiosyncratic characters who capture your heart. If you’re really lucky, the prose itself may flow in a way that’s so immersive, you hardly notice you’re reading because you’ve been fully transported into its fictional world. Karl Geary’s Juno Loves Legs does all of this and more.”

Monsters: A Fan’s Dilemma by Claire Dederer (Knopf). Reviewed by Yelizaveta P. Renfro. “Monsters is an expansive and big-hearted work, part memoir, part cultural criticism, part paean to complexity and nuance, and a full embrace of the human experience. It’s a cry to respond to art not just with the analytical mind or the critic’s prim embrace, but with the full range of emotion, with the whole body, the complete biographical self. It is a refreshing book that is at times uncomfortable, even painful, but necessarily so. We cannot simply label the monsters, put them in cages, and excise them from our lives, because they are everywhere among us. They are us.”

Into the Groove: The Story of Sound from Tin Foil to Vinyl by Jonathan Scott (Bloomsbury Sigma). Reviewed by Eugene L. Meyer. “Remarkably, and to the author’s delight, despite the ever-evolving formats for recorded music, vinyl ‘keeps getting back up.’ I read recently that the original 1959 vinyl record of Miles Davis’ ‘Kind of Blue’ could be worth thousands now. As for current top artists, everyone from Beyoncé and Taylor Swift to Harry Styles releases brand-new albums on old-school vinyl. After 265 pages of text, Scott shares an epiphany: ‘It wasn’t the format that was important, it wasn’t how you listened to anything. It was what you were listening to, and how what you listened to made you feel.’ To bring us full circle in his excellent, absorbing book, he adds, ‘And it all came from the groove.’”

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

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