Our 7 Most Favorable Reviews in November 2023

  • December 5, 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 November 2023

Every Drop Is a Man’s Nightmare: Stories by Megan Kamalei Kakimoto (Bloomsbury Publishing). Reviewed by Molly McGinnis. “It would be fitting but too simple to call this collection haunting. The stories in Megan Kamalei Kakimoto’s Every Drop Is a Man’s Nightmare are so lavishly imagined, and their characters — from young women to mythical beings to watchful ancestors and even Hawaii itself — are so defiant, that to offer any solid definitions seems like a betrayal of the book’s ethics. Here, boundaries between the past and present, the living and the dead, are not so much flimsy as nonexistent.”

The Globemakers: The Curious Story of an Ancient Craft by Peter Bellerby (Bloomsbury Publishing). Reviewed by Darrell Delamaide. “Maps are fascinating, but Bellerby’s love of globes is contagious. In the book, he recounts his painstaking rediscovery of a lost art in England as he went from a small studio to a cavernous space in north London that now employs 25 people and produces more than 600 globes a year. The reader learns about everything from the gores that are pasted onto the sphere to map the earth, to the metal casting and wood-turning required to make the stand that lets it spin. The saga continues with learning how to paint the globe and hand-letter place names.”

Longstreet: The Confederate General Who Defied the South by Elizabeth R. Varon (Simon & Schuster). Reviewed by Eugene L. Meyer. “Critics would interpret his dissent as disloyalty both to Lee and to the Confederate cause. For accepting defeat and Reconstruction — even becoming a Republican and working with newly enfranchised Black politicians — Longstreet was reviled. While other Confederate commanders were portrayed as noble warriors, meriting marble statues and even U.S. military bases named for them (and only recently changed), Longstreet was persona non grata.”

To Free the Captives: A Plea for the American Soul by Tracy K. Smith (Knopf). Reviewed by Sarah J. Trembath. “In between memories, researched realizations, visits with folks, and all that she learns about her upwardly mobile loved ones, Smith paints a picture of what it really meant/means to be Black and survive, ‘to stand up against blow after psychic blow.’ She writes not of the big tragedies and blockades that we already know about but of the all-but-invisible humiliations endured and sometimes transcended by proud people with little recourse to challenge them outright.”

The Hurricane Blonde: A Novel by Halley Sutton (G.P. Putnam’s Sons). Reviewed by Nick Havey. “The strength of The Hurricane Blonde, like in Sutton’s The Lady Upstairs before it, is the women at its core. Salma Lowe is an unreliable narrator: an addict who holds a grudge. But she’s also an incredible vehicle for the author’s critique of Tinseltown and the violence, abuse, and trauma it levies against anyone trying to find success there.”

So Late in the Day: Stories of Women and Men by Claire Keegan (Grove Press). Reviewed by Samantha Neugebauer. “Virginia Woolf famously called Middlemarch ‘one of the few English novels written for grown-up people.’ In the same way, ‘So Late in the Day’ is a story with adult complexity, motives, and obstacles. This complexity is one reason that Keegan’s short stories often have the weight of novels. Even her antagonists aren’t dummies. She can write flawed, disappointing characters without being condescending toward them or making them ridiculous. The reader can tell she takes no delight in Cathal’s downfall.”

Emperor of Rome: Ruling the Ancient Roman World by Mary Beard (Liveright). Reviewed by Bob Duffy. “All of Beard’s emperors offer abundant examples of sovereign excess. Take Elagabalus, a cross-dressing Syrian teenager who ruled from 218-222 CE. He apparently loved to stage grand banquets for his subjects. There were color-coded dinners, where all the offerings were of the same hue (put your imagination to work on this one), and there were meals where guests’ couches were fitted with giant whoopee cushions (Beard credits him as the inventor of these devices).”

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