7 Most Favorable Reviews in February 2022
- March 3, 2022
We came, we read, we gushed. Here’s a recap of the titles that left us especially warm and swoony last month.
Architects of an American Landscape: Henry Hobson Richardson, Frederick Law Olmsted, and the Reimagining of America’s Public and Private Spaces by Hugh Howard (Atlantic Monthly Press). Reviewed by Bob Duffy. “Hugh Howard gets it marvelously right in Architects of an American Landscape, his joint biography of two Gilded Age luminaries. Both men are strikingly important in our nation’s cultural history, and the author nails his pairing of the two with solid scholarship and graceful, vivid writing. Just as importantly, he gives us a volume richly illustrated with more than 50 half-tone images. Overall, the presentation is superb.”
The Pages: A Novel by Hugo Hamilton (Knopf). Reviewed by Colin Asher. “In place of nihilism, [the author] places his faith in the written word and the strength of our common human culture. In an author’s note, he explains himself by quoting the German Jewish writer and poet Heinrich Heine and then expanding on Heine’s ideas. ‘Wherever they burn books, they will end up burning human beings,’ he paraphrases Heine. To which Hamilton adds, referencing Dieter Knecht’s long-ago act of heroism on the Opernplatz, ‘[Heine’s] words continue to resonate a century later, not only because they warn us about censorship and human rights abuses, but also because they can be turned around by a single act of courage to be read as — wherever they save a book from burning, they will end up saving human beings.’”
Men in My Situation: A Novel by Per Petterson; translated by Ingvild Burkey (Graywolf Press). Reviewed by Mike Maggio. “It’s not often a novel comes along that explores the vicissitudes of the male psyche, especially as they relate to those inner moments that deal with love and loss. Men are typically depicted as strong, successful, and cocksure. In romances, they may be portrayed as rugged or macho. In mysteries, as cool and cunning. ‘Vulnerable’ is almost never an attribute, insecurity never a trait. But not so with Men in My Situation, a new novel straight out of the fjords by award-winning Norwegian author Per Petterson.”
Black Cloud Rising: A Novel by David Wright Faladé (Grove Press). Reviewed by Eugene L. Meyer. “Our country’s racial history, often portrayed as black and white, has never been, well, black and white. That’s as true now as it was in the decades before, during, and after the Civil War. Its complexities are fully on display in the riveting new Black Cloud Rising. Author David Wright Faladé skillfully weaves real people and events into a compelling fictional narrative of life in the African Brigade, composed largely of ‘Sand Bankers,’ mostly formerly enslaved men from the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Their mission in late 1863: to flush out Confederate ‘bushwackers,’ irregulars who continue to wage a guerilla war in the Union-occupied territory.”
When I’m Gone, Look for Me in the East: A Novel by Quan Barry (Pantheon). Reviewed by Sally Shivnan. “The year is 2015. A young novice Buddhist monk, Chuluun, accepts a quest to find the child reincarnation of an important lama who is hiding in plain sight somewhere in the wilds of Mongolia. The travel is dangerous, but the greater problem is the deep doubt the monk feels about his spiritual path. It does not help when his twin brother, who is locally notorious for leaving the monastery and embracing Western ways, joins the small search party. This situation sets readers up for adventures ranging from encounters with sheep thieves to a violent sandstorm to a murderous lynx and more. But When I’m Gone, Look for Me in the East is no ordinary adventure tale. Although the events, and the landscapes, are strange and wondrous, Quan Barry’s new novel is utterly original, a unique immersion in history, philosophy, religion, the nature of time, and the clash of old and new happening all over our world.”
A House Built by Slaves: African American Visitors to the Lincoln White House by Jonathan W. White (Rowman & Littlefield). Reviewed by Drew Gallagher. “White couches his narrative in the important stories of these Black visitors, capturing both the novelty of their presence and the incendiary effect it had on Lincoln’s many enemies (not to mention the barely disguised shock displayed by members of the press in reporting on the normalcy with which Lincoln received Black guests). To some white visitors at the White House, in fact, the presence of Black people was more talked about than Lincoln’s presence. The president’s willingness to openly entertain them and afford them the same consideration as whites was further proof to critics that Lincoln was ruining the very fabric of our nation.”
Index, A History of the: A Bookish Adventure from Medieval Manuscripts to the Digital Age by Dennis Duncan (W.W. Norton & Company). Reviewed by Peggy Kurkowski. “When it comes to finding information quickly, what would the bookish world do without that veritable workhorse, the index? For centuries, the humble index has pointed readers toward their desired information conveniently and quickly, but its fascinating origins in the monasteries and universities of medieval Europe is not a fact readily known. Until now, that is. In Dennis Duncan’s Index, A History of the, the genesis of this critical yet often invisible element of the book is revealed with impish insight and erudition.”
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