7 Most-Favorable Reviews in September 2020

  • October 6, 2020

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

7 Most-Favorable Reviews in September 2020

Private Means: A Novel by Cree LeFavour (Grove Press). Reviewed by Liam Callanan. “In the right light, even acid sparkles, and this otherwise scarifying book does so on every page. A pre-publication blurb cites Cheever and Ian McEwan as comparisons, but the closer one by far is Tom Wolfe, who could learn a thing or two from LeFavour’s searing examination of Alice’s and Peter’s struggle to navigate their world. The book glories in details, taxonomizing everything from prescriptions — not just an antipsychotic but Zyprexa, and at the 15mg dose — to wine — not just a Haut-Brion but a ‘slightly over-the-hill but still alive 1971 Chateau la Mission Haut-Brion’ — to a dozen other gradations that carefully measure and shape this world.”

Cool for America: Stories by Andrew Martin (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). Reviewed by Jack McCarthy. “Martin’s most astonishing power is his ability to sublimate a character’s internal frustrations into an external representation of reality — a cathartic, frequently amusing projection of the self onto the world’s brutal canvas. As he writes of a character in one story: ‘She understood that the things of the world had weight and force, and that she did, too, and that, in combination, this could pose problems.’ Maybe there isn’t any way to make sense of such problems, but at least we try. We have to, for the world would make even less sense if we didn’t.”

The Rise of the G.I. Army, 1940-1941: The Forgotten Story of How America Forged a Powerful Army Before Pearl Harbor by Paul Dickson (Atlantic Monthly Press). Reviewed by Bob Duffy. “In this exhaustively thorough volume, Paul Dickson serves up a detailed picture of our nation’s just-in-time preparation for battlefield action in World War II. Dickson, an indefatigable researcher, again demonstrates his talent for marshaling ground-level details and contemporary newspaper accounts into a coherent and engaging story. The Rise of the G.I. Army, 1940-1941 is a remarkable work of historical scholarship, an eminently readable narrative crafted from a swarm of disparate and far-flung sources. The author plunges boldly into a saga that few other experts have explored in detail.”

A Saint from Texas: A Novel by Edmund White (Bloomsbury Publishing). Reviewed by Daniel Weaver. “That such a delicately balanced novel comes from a writer as experienced as White is no surprise. In a recent profile, Alexander Chee remarked, ‘I think we are still in the process of learning how important [White] has always been.’ A Saint from Texas is no small pleasure in itself, but it might just as well serve as a welcome reminder of — and entry point into — his immense body of work. One suspects people will be reading Edmund White long after he’s gone, too.”

Talland House: A Novel by Maggie Humm (She Writes Press). Reviewed by Roberta Rubenstein. “To base a work of fiction closely on the work of another writer is a task not lightly undertaken, for it may expose the borrower to the risk of failure by comparison. With Talland House, Maggie Humm has more than risen to the challenge she set for herself: an imaginative expansion of Virginia Woolf’s classic To the Lighthouse and a moving homage to its author.”

Escaping Dreamland: A Novel by Charlie Lovett (Blackstone Publishing). Reviewed by Clarissa Harwood. “At the turn of the 20th century, America was undergoing dramatic change which today amounts to a treasure trove of triumphs and tragedies for any contemporary historical novelist. In the dual-timeline novel Escaping Dreamland, Charlie Lovett mines that rich history with skill and empathy.”

Having and Being Had by Eula Biss (Riverhead Books). Reviewed by Gretchen Lida. “For her new book, Having and Being Had, the searing image is the juxtaposition of Biss herself, a homeowner and successful writer, against her mother, who struggles to stay in the middle class: ‘She still has white privilege, but she often doesn't have hot water.’ One of the troubles with taboos is they’re often so uncomfortable that our avoidance of them makes them invisible. Yet Biss is not only unafraid of taboo, she leans into it. She uses the form of the essay to interrogate, break apart, and complicate something in order to make it fully known and understood.”

Click here to get our free biweekly e-newsletter, and follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest! And if you’d like to advertise with us, click here.

Like what we do? Click here to support the nonprofit Independent!
comments powered by Disqus