Our 7 Most Favorable Reviews in May 2024

  • June 5, 2024

We came, we read, we gushed.

Our 7 Most Favorable Reviews in May 2024

James: A Novel by Percival Everett (Doubleday). Reviewed by Nick Havey. “The book is, in a word, electrifying. Everett has become one of my favorite authors in no small part due to the eviscerating pace at which his novels move. Erasure (which became the recent movie ‘American Fiction’) demands you sprint to the end. Telephone challenges you to read the three alternate endings it was published with. And So Much Blue leaps between timelines with ease and precision. Everett is a master of language — particularly when employing as little of it as possible to make his point — and that has never been more evident than in James.”

Flight of the Wild Swan: A Novel by Melissa Pritchard (Bellevue Literary Press). Reviewed by Carrie Callaghan. “Saints, it turns out, may not be pleasant people. Mother Teresa stands accused of being a tyrant, and extreme humanitarians might simply be extreme egoists. Few women have been more sanctified than Florence Nightingale, the lady with the lamp and founder of modern nursing. The challenge of turning such a lionized figure into a compelling fictional character seems daunting, yet author Melissa Pritchard meets the task mightily in her latest novel, Flight of the Wild Swan.”

The Wolves of K Street: The Secret History of How Big Money Took Over Big Government by Brody Mullins and Luke Mullins (Simon & Schuster). Reviewed by Ken Ackerman. “The Wolves of K Street, however, seems to have its own slant, seen both in its splashy title and in the book’s offhanded, repeated use of the pejorative term ‘influence peddling’ as a blanket description for Washington advocacy. Still, for all my misgivings, I found it a guilty pleasure and a delicious read, detailed and finely researched. The characterizations and backroom stories are well crafted and as salacious as promised. The authors, brothers Brody Mullins and Luke Mullins, investigative reporters for the Wall Street Journal and Washingtonian, respectively, who’ve covered DC lobbying for years, tell a heck of a yarn.”

The Britannias: An Archipelago’s Tale by Alice Albinia (W.W. Norton & Company). Reviewed by Bob Duffy. “Alice Albinia’s The Britannias recounts the feminist author’s journeys to 14 islands or island chains on the fringes of the British Isles. This is a beguiling volume, brimming with impressive insight and erudition, and vibrant with autobiographical pizazz. A watchful pilgrim by both curious nature and scholarly bent, Albinia undergirds her firsthand ‘voyage tales’ with marvelously on-point side trips through history, custom, and legend.”

Splice of Life: A Memoir in 13 Film Genres by Charles Jensen (Santa Fe Writer’s Project). Reviewed by Nick Havey. “Throughout the chapters, which include Jensen’s erasure poetry, are clever references to the cultural touchpoints surrounding each film (hello, Scissor Sisters, as a prelude to Jensen exploring his relationship to his mother and hers to her queer kid). With its obvious but elevated take on Wes Craven’s horror masterpiece ‘Scream’ and other movies, Splice of Life reads more like a syllabus of queer life through cinema than it does a memoir. And that’s why it’s successful.”

Clara Reads Proust by Stéphane Carlier; translated by Polly Mackintosh (Gallic Books). Reviewed by Anne Eliot Feldman. “While this is Carlier’s eighth novel, it is his first to be translated into English (by Polly Mackintosh). Clara Reads Proust offers an edifying homage to one of France’s most respected writers and a real-life ending that makes us think. We finish the book with the sense that pushing beyond what we know can elevate our perspective, give us joy, and awaken innate talents that might otherwise have lain dormant forever.”

Belly Woman: Birth, Blood & Ebola: The Untold Story by Benjamin Black (Neem Tree Press). Reviewed by Jay Hancock. “Should Black have kept the maternity operation open? Should he have stayed? Was he playing the white savior to poor Africans? Should he have handled this case or that differently? Should he be writing so plainly about MSF’s imperfections? Belly Woman’s unsettling reportage of how medicine is really done would be hard to publish from a rich country with lawyers and compliance departments. Black broaches these matters, and nobody could be harder on him than he is. But he was one of many good people doing their best in a very bad situation.”

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