Literary reviews by Tim Love.
Warning: Rather than reviews, these are often notes in preparation for reviews that were never finished, or pleas for help with understanding pieces. See Litref Reviews - a rationale for details.

Saturday, 26 September 2020

"Tigress" by Jessica Mookherjee (Nine Arches Press, 2019)

Poems from Rialto, The High Window, Interpreter's House, The North, etc. I didn't think much of the first poem about her father arriving to the UK from Dhaka. I much prefer the second poem, "The Beginning of Flight", about her mother's arrival, taking in Blériot, Camels, Spitfires, and Enola Gay before arriving at Heathrow. I don't know what "Snapshot" is about. I like "The Truth" I don't know what "Sea-born" is about. I had trouble with this -

Apple moon, crisp and cream pale,
someone took a gentle bite out of her cheek
and left me with nothing to suck but my thumb.

As Dad drove her back from the hospital
she kept watching me in the car, peering,
twisted, from her passenger seat

I think the first line is comparing the moon to an apple. "cream" doesn't seem the right colour for an apple though, and there's a clash in my mind between cream (the food) and apple. The second line might refer to the cratered moon, though I think a moon=mother association is being set up. The apple's not alluded to again in the poem - I don't think these confused images justify its presence. In line 3 a child is missing what? Does she normally suck apples? Is she still being breast-fed? Neither seems likely. In stanza 2 why bother with "in the car"?

On p.24 "The concrete porch/ steps are now slippery, wet, and covered with slime" sounds too wordy.

"Our Father" includes "You were Varuna,/ lord of oceans, but you tricked us,/ turned into Uranium - our alpha particle,// then you dated the Earth". Well, Uranus was a sky god, and uranium was involved with finding the age of the Earth. Uranus married Gaia, the Earth goddess, so he "dated" (i.e. went out with) the Earth. The symbolism doesn't quite mesh, but its followable. However, I don't get "our alpha particle".

I liked "The Principal Boy". It begins with "I return to the theatre, after curtain call,/ all backstage, all eyes". Aspects of it puzzle me all the same. Stanza 1 mentions "I" and "You" (singular). Stanza 2 mentions "She", "you" and "We". Stanza 3 has "You", "we" and a final return to "I". I couldn't work out the cast. The final stanza makes it look as if "You" is the principal boy (i.e. a woman). In stanza 2 "She sits listening to you with dead ears".

"it" appears in stanza 1 of "The Bite Mark", entering the house "like a crumpled child" then lighting a halo. "It" morphs through the poem that ends with "It gently stings - singed kiss/ as it passes to wake us, it turns you into Orpheus// as I slip on its bite. My heart scarred with your wound, I keep it opened with my teeth". Rich surrealism or confused imagery? What can be kept open with teeth? I struggle with phrases like "I slip on its bite" and the punctuation doesn't help.

I like "Dream Dictionary" and "Tigress". I like the 2nd half of "The Cold Wife". "Self portrait in maroon and black" is good. "Mothers' Day" and "Vernal Equinox" are rather anecdotal.

"Stranger" ends with "They spread/ rumours that I'm the moon and chase me with silver./ I know I can't drown because I'm the water" With silver? I like "Darshan".

The poems vary in their stance to realism. Some are descriptive, some wrap realism in figurative language, some might be based on realism but the clues are missing, and some aren't trying to relate to the world. I think that some pieces are internally contradictory, which is ok for a poem if it works. It didn't work for me. Some of the pieces in other styles did.

Other reviews

  • Emma Lee (Her poems are inventive and distinctive. They use familiar vocabulary to explore complex ideas in a search for a divided self.)
  • Stephanie Sy-quia (One might call this Immigrant Gothic. Indeed, it is easy to imagine the claustrophobia the Welsh Mumbles would elicit in a man arriving in the country “the day Winston Churchill dies”, having travelled alone from Dhaka. For the wife who comes to join him, it is too much, and she soon becomes a pharmaceutically fogged Bertha Mason, placated by pills and deserving of pity.)
  • Neil Fulwood (Tigress is a collection that deserves to be discovered, savoured, lingered over and returned to: a work, I believe, that will find its home in the subconscious rather than the coldly analytical.)

Wednesday, 23 September 2020

"The Turning" by Tim Winton (2005)

Stories from Granta, Harvard Review, Harpers, Threepenny Review, etc. An audio book ably read. Set in Angelus in Australia, by the sea. Silos, fishing boats, food processing, water shortages. Interlinking stories. People sense something, then the moment's gone. The characters' internal monlogue is often over-articulate. The dialogue's more authentic.

  • Big World - When the narrator arrived and started school, Biggie saved him from a bully. Since then he'd helped Biggie with his school work. They both failed the exam. They buy a van and leave without telling people. They pick up a plump girl thicker than Biggie. Watching how Biggie treats her makes the narrator aware of how he treated Biggie. The van catches fire. Their escape from school failure fails.
  • Abbreviation - Vic, 13, goes camping on the beach with his family for New Years Eve. He meets Melanie, 16, who's bored too. She's missing part of a finger - a farming accident. They kiss.
    I like it
  • Aquifer - A man reads that human remains have been found in a swamp where he used to live. He immediately drives 5 hours to be there. When he was a boy he saw a bully from his school drown there, the body never recovered. He thinks about how water evaporates and is drunk, how dead bodies are recycled. The same happens with time - "Time is in us, not behind"
  • Damaged Goods - The narrator's the wife of Vic. She feels ignored. She relates how Vic liked a girl at school with a vivid birth mark on her face, and she knows about the Melanie incident. She wonders what deformity attracts him to her. She says that Melanie wrote a poem about 2 girls in a fire. Years later Viv met Melanie with her girlfriend. That night the 2 of them died in a car accident.
  • Small Mercies - Dyson returns to Angelus with his 4 y.o. son after his wife's suicide. The parents of Faye, his school sweetheart, ask him to see her. She has a daughter that they're looking after which Faye's completing rehab. When he rejects her offer of sex she threatens to tell her parents that she had an abortion at 15 and that Dyson's mother paid for it.
  • On her knees - When his mother, a domestic cleaner, is accused of stealing from a client, a law graduate helps her
  • Cockleshell - Breakie becomes briefly obsessed with 15 y.o. Agnes as she spears dogfish on the mudflats in the evening. She's not doing it for money. She's not interested in him. She ends up being a surgeon.
  • The turning - Raylene is friends with Cheri on a caravan site. Raylene's husband Dan is battering her. When Cheri and her husband move to a house, Cheri regularly visits. She wonders what the secret of their happiness is. She discovers that they're religious. After an incident, Raylene has to have stitches. The nurse's husband is Max's boss. He sacks Max.
  • Sand - Max (12) tries to suffocate brother Frank (10) in a sand dune tunnel. He escapes.
    Too minor.
  • Family - Frank, having walked off a football pitch in mid-game, returns to Angelus, evading the sports journalists. Surfing, he meets his brother Max who says how useless and cowardly he is. A shark attacks Max. Frank tries to save him
  • Long, clear view - Vic's family moves to Angelus. His father's a policeman. He never quite integrates. To comfort himself he holds his father's rifle. He does a lot of watching. He feels that the locals are against him. When alone, he loads the rifle.
  • Reunion - Vic and his wife (it's her PoV) go with Vic's mother to a family reunion. They find the house empty, end up in the pool, then realise they've the wrong house. Back home they have a revealing talk about families. "shiny bikes lay strewn askew on summer lawns" and "a servility that bewildered all of us" sound over-literary
  • Commission - After her diagnosis, Vic's mother asks him to find her father, who's been gone 27 years, so she could see him one last time. Vic finds him. He's been sober for years, waiting to hear from her, feeling guilty. He thinks that Viv's mother really wants Viv and his father to meet up again. Vic suspects that his work drove his father to despair. The narrative flow's good.
  • Fog - I like this. Vic's father's been in Angelus a year. He realises that the police are corrupt. He's become a secret drinker. He's called to help at a mountain rescue. A young female reporter teams up with him. They find the climber unconscious, legs broken as night falls. She takes a photo before helping. Their radio's broken. She's scared. They exchange stories. He takes her camera, not to confiscate it but planning to use its flash to signal to others their whereabouts.
  • Boner McPharlin's Moll - A 15 y.o. goes round with the bad boy of town. No sex, and not much talk. They're both lonely. She enjoys her reputation. She uses words like "assuaged" and phrases like "I'd embraced the safety of the medium". She turns over a new leaf. Later, she visits him in hospital after baddies (or police?) broke his legs. He opens up about his mother, his inability to read or swim. He's never done much wrong. He teaches her to drive. Charley becomes her boyfriend but she prefers Boner's company, though she hardly sees him. After her exams, he organises a party - "Pink Floyd was blasting across the beach". They throw offal in the sea to attract sharks. After Uni she returns briefly. She's become a high-power diplomatic advisor. She has female lovers. She's called back to accompany him to a mental home. She looks around his shack, finds porn with pictures of her head taped on the bodies. She visits him about once a year. To the end he says he only did the driving. 4 policemen are at the funeral. As much a portrait of Boner than an autobiography.
  • Immunity - The narrator approaches a 15 y.o. boy on a train. He's in a cadet uniform. She's in the year behind him at school. He hasn't noticed her. She's been following him for 18 months and knows he's lonely. They talk about death, close shaves. Neither knows that Vic's sister is dying of meningitis. She never spoke to him (Vic) again.
    A rather weak piece.
  • Defender - Gail (34) and Vic (44) are off to meet friends for the weekend (though he has no real friends, thinks Gail. She also thinks that his only vivid experiences date from adolescence). There's tension between them. He's recently had shingles twice. She confesses to an affair - "The forest sighed". When they arrive at Fen and Daisy's he realises that they knew about Gail's affair (with a sleasy hotel manager). Fen and Daisy have given up being vets to look after a farm. Vic admires their decision. Vic goes for a lie-down, thinks through the day so far. He knows it seems strange that he's more upset about his professional reputation than being cuckolded. Meanwhile Gail and Daisy discuss Gail's future. Gail's become religious again. Vic starts talking to Daisy's daughter, awkwardly. Later, Vic tells Gail about some past events whose relevance she doesn't understand. She was partly hoping for anger rather than self-analysis. Vic tries Fen's gun with clay pigeons, again and again. He impresses the kids.
    Not one of the best pieces, though it ends well.

Other reviews

  • Ann Skea
  • James Smith (a collection of overlapping stories set mainly in one town, Winton again gives us fractured lives, drifting relationships, and several shades of the violence that can erupt from the bitterness of failure.
  • Kirkus reviews
  • Magdalena Ball

Saturday, 19 September 2020

"Arete (issue 60)" by Craig Raine (ed)

Winter 2019. Spined. One poem, a story (Blake Morrison) and essays. The first essay by Claire Lowdon looks at Thomas Bernhard's late novels, wondering why some people think them so good - "I am going to list some examples. If you're new to Bernhard, let this be a sort of entry-test to his work. The requirement is that you find what you're about to read funny or profound, ideally both. If you think it's tedious and facile - more or less the same thing again and again [] then I think we can safely say that Bernhard is not for you" (p.17); "I don't think Bernhard's sentences are that difficult; I think his writing is just so excruciatingly boring it gives the illusion of difficulty" (p.20)

There's a MeToo theme. In the David Mamet symposium it points out that his female characters tend to be underwritten. I didn't think the Wendy Cope article was worth inclusion, but that may not have been her fault.

Wednesday, 16 September 2020

"The confession" by Jessie Burton (Pan, 2019)

The story hops between 2 timelines, making cliff-hangers easy.

1980. Elise gets picked up by an older woman, Connie, a novelist, on Hamstead Heath. Elise moves in. Connie's finishing a novel - "Green Rabbit". Elise has identity issues. After a life modelling session, when the students had gone "she would creep back inside the workshop, circling the easels where the day's work had been left. She was on a hunt for her self, although she was the one who provided the map. She would wander the paper forest".

Elise and Connie go to LA because Connie's first book's being filmed. There's a lot about LA and the excitement over fify-something Barbara, the lead actress. I suppose if Elise has identity issues, celebrity and being surrounded by actors might confuse her. Elise in LA feels neglected, lacking in self-esteem. She's articulate and analyical so it's surprising that she takes into account the new situation - LA and celebs. She's only young though.

Elise offers herself to Shara (Connie's old friend, married to Matt, a failed screenwriter) as a model. It helps with her identification issues. She finds out from Shara about Connie. She gets surfing lessons with Matt. After a misscarriage Matt and Shara have drifted apart. Barbara's ex beats her up. She runs to Connie for shelter. Elise sees that Connie and Barbara are very close. She and Matt leave together (unconvincingly - they each have so much to lose).

Elise has post-natal depression in NY. She leave Matt to stay with Costa Rican friend Yolanda. Matt calls Connie in London, asking her to help. She flies over and tells Elise to give the baby up for adoption. A week later Elise disappears. Later Connie spends a month looking for her.

2017. We're in the head of Elise's daughter, Rose. She's been bought up by her father because Elise left them when Rose was 1. When she's 34 her father Matt tells her that her mother was the lover of Constance, an author. Her father marries in his fifties, has cancer, moves to France. Kelly's an old friend of Rose. She has a little daughter Molly and is expecting again.

Rose feels her life's going nowhere. She's lacking in self-esteem. She manages to become Connie's maid (the details of the trick described in too much detail). She uses the name Laura, creating a new persona. I like the game between Connie and Laura.

Rose types in Connie's new novel (her first for 30 years set in 1600s America, involving motherhood/abortion) a few pages at a time, analysing it for clues. Rose leaves Jo over Xmas, shelters with Connie, discovers she's pregnant. Will she keep the child? Connie invites her to stay. The novel's done. Then Barbara exposes Rose's deception. Connie throws her out, invites her back 5 days later. Rose has an abortion. At the end she leaves for Costa Rica, friends with Connie again. Connie promises to phone Matt.

Here's a compare/contrast table

Elise, 1980-Rose, 2017-
Mother died when Elise youngMother (Elise) left when Rose a baby
Has identity issuesFeels she's drifting
Moves in with Connie, who's finishing "Green Rabbit"Starts working for Connie, who's finishing a novel
Goes with Connie to LA
Leaves Connie for Matt
Finds out from Shara about Connie's pastFinds out from Deborah about Connie's past
Leaves MattLeaves Joe
Thrown out by Connie
Stays with coffee-bar workmate YollandaStays with coffee-bar workmate Zoe
Gets a cheque from ConnieGets money from Joe
Leaves her babyHas an abortion
Runs away from situationsEscapes from stale, self-restricting situations

Some fragments caught my eye -

  • "she could see her trying to hide a yearning for answers" (really?)
  • "Love, how might it feel. Elise believed that for all her life she had been tiptoe-ing round the edge of a volcanic crater whose depths she could not quantify but which was full of something powerful, something she had never been shown before. Down in that darkness were many happy souls but many dead bodies"
  • "going down the stairs, the bags bumping her hips like the buckets of a milkmaid"
  • "The vulnerability she had displayed under that urbane intellectual roughness was making me fell guilty and protective" (surprisingly articulate, though Elise and Rose are all the way through the book)
  • "hot tears welling in her eyes" (where else would they well?)
  • "and patted herself inconsciously" (unselfconsciously?)
  • "watching the teabags bloat to the surface"

Connie's 2nd book contained the quote "Self-consciousness in a woman's life is a plague of locusts". She seemed to go reclusive after the film, which was a success - an oscar for Barbara. Connie likes being in control of relationships, which makes love problematic.

All the females give their views on motherhood.

One of the revelations seems to be that Rose started by seeking her Mother then ended up by finding her Self, but that seemed to be a theme all the way through.

Other reviews

  • Alfred Hickling (What one notices here, however, is a more free-flowing aspect to her prose, which is plainer and less obstructed by overworked passages than her earlier work. [] an understated triumph)
  • goodreads
  • Olivier Fricot
  • Anna Luce (The premise of The Confession is one that has been done time and again. A young-ish woman forms a bond with an older woman, the latter is often famous (she can be an actress like in The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo or a writer such as in The Thirteenth Tale) or merely involved in some mystery of sorts (The Brimstone Wedding). The older woman will often confide in the younger one, who in her turn will find herself re-assessing her often until then unfulfilling existence. These books often implement a dual timeline to tell both of these women’s stories and towards the end a big secret will be revealed. So yes, I knew that this book was threading familiar paths…still, I hoped that it would give this scenario or these dynamics a new spin…(it didn’t). [] rather than creating a narrative in which there is room for different perspectives regarding certain topics, it goes on a self-righteous spiel. We get it, this is a truly feminist book. [] Between its dichotomous arguments, its poorly developed characters, its uneven tone, and its propensity for melodrama it just didn’t work for me. There are so many books that use a similar premise with much better results…)

Saturday, 12 September 2020

"Rest and be thankful" by Emma Glass (Bloomsbury Circus, 2020)

An audio book read by the author.

The female narrator, Laura, works in a ward for babies/children who need intensive care. When Danny's mother is told there's no hope she pukes over Laura, soaking through to her bra. The chapel's been transplanted into the hospital.

She isn't getting on so well with her partner (aka "You"), who cries into his beard and says he doesn't love her any more. Mess at work, mess at home. She feels something for a colleague, Wilf. She repeatedly sees a woman in black with hollow eyes - in dreams, in the ward, at stations, etc.

A father who stays at a baby's bedside keeps playing shoot'em'up video games.

She's told not to make tea for the doctors even though she wants to be kind, because they'll think it's her job.

A big crow attacks her, drawing blood.

She moves into a nurses residence, discovers that a friend lives there. At the end, back in the ward, she's holding a baby. Someone picks her up in a car, drives too fast through familiar country lanes, has an accident. She looks down at a broken bodied baby on the ground.

I can imagine readers being divided by the florid style. The early dream imagery doesn't attract me, and many of the similes aren't new. The best parts don't need flowery language. The "I wait for her because without her I'm going to drown" section drags on. That said, the narrator's stressed and tired and the streaming imagery often works. Here's a selection of frgaments that caught my eye, not always for good reasons -

  • "grows like the skin on undrunk coffee, it is the colour of the underside of a picture frame"
  • "We are all paper aeroplanes today, folding and unfolding, refolding to be sharper, to fly and succeed, but our aim is slightly off, one wing slightly bigger than the other, thrust into the air, tearing through the air, to wobble and nose-dive, and ripped up in the end because we didn't make it"
  • "I take shelter at a bus stop, a shell within a shell"
  • "To remain present and present myself"
  • "my skin unzipped and my chest is open. My heart climbs up and clambers out on aortic arms, dragged ventricles" - a garish cartoon
  • "my stomach sings to be fed"
  • "tiredness is playing tricks but I'm tired of that now"
  • "the sun is setting, a big round yellow egg yolk forked open and flowing, the last of the sunlight running into the canal, darkness dissolving the day"
  • "I can't be whole with nothing. I came from nothing. I came from nowhere. I can be anywhere now"
  • Other reviews

    • Boyd Tompkin ( Its galloping pace and breathless immediacy feel deeply, even scarily, authentic. Packed with echoes, assonances and internal rhymes, along with some verbal swerves and twirls that recall the prose work of Dylan Thomas (Glass also comes from Wales), her muscular language throbs with sinewy energy. )
    • Goodreads

Wednesday, 9 September 2020

"The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" by Muriel Spark

A progressive spinster in 1930s Edinburgh is a teacher who has picked out six junior girls for special attention. She takes them to the opera, has them over for tea and cakes, etc. She wants to train them up for their lives ahead. She continues to see them after they leave her class (when they're 12). She admires individualism, the arts over the sciences, strong men like Hitler. She fancies the married art teacher but spends nights with the single music teacher. Time switches back and forwards for a paragraph or 2 at a time - back to when the girls were 10; forwards to when one of them, married, visits her grave, etc. The girls talk about her, wondering if she's having an affair with another teacher. Sandy, one of her girls, fantasises about talking to heros in romantic novels or Pavlova. She helps write a series of imagined love letters that Brodie might have written to a teacher. She meets Brodie years later in a hotel, describing her as "that obnoxious woman". After having become Brodie's trusted confidante (she doesn't seem to have any friends) Sandy became a psychologist then a nun. We learn about Jean Brodie mostly through what she says to the girls. Her female colleagues don't like her. The head plots to get rid of her, trying to get evidence from Brodie's chosen ones. The art teacher invites them all round, gets 2 of them to model for him, sleeps with Sandy, who thinks that the portraits he does of them all look like Brodie. One of her set betrays her so that she has to retire early. She never finds out who it was, though we know before the novel's half over

There's repetition (we're frequently reminded that Sandy has small eyes, that the music teacher has short legs, etc), though generally the different context brings out different meanings. There's much dramatic irony - we know things that characters don't know. It's fast and funny - much funnier than "Lucky Jim" for example.

Other reviews

  • Alan Taylor (It is at once traditional and experimental. Rich in period detail, it is nevertheless as spare and taut as one of Simenon’s thrillers and as light as a soufflé. It is the dialogue in particular that makes it sing [] It took her little more than four weeks to compose its forty thousand and so words. [] Miss Brodie – ‘an Edinburgh Festival all on her own’ – is the personification of irony. Everything she says and does can be read from an alternative point of view. [] her school mate Frances Niven said that ‘75%’ of Miss Brodie was surely Miss Christina Kay, the teacher both of them had at Gillespie’s. Hers, noted Niven, were the expression ‘crème de la crème’ and the extra lessons on art and music. ‘She it was who took us both (who were especial favourites of hers –? – part of the as yet unborn Brodie Set) to see Pavlova’s last performance at the Empire Theatre. Who took us for afternoon tea at McVitie’s.’ [] The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie was first published in the United States where it had previously appeared almost in its entirety in a single issue of the New Yorker. [] reviews of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie were mixed. Some reviewers expressed bafflement while others had trouble fathoming what the novel was ‘about’. At least one critic felt that Spark had written too many books too quickly

Saturday, 5 September 2020

"The River Capture" by Mary Costello (Canongate, 2019)

An audio book. As Luke wanders around we learn in snippets about his life (and about James Joyce's). He muses, "in a drift of thoughts". He likes looking at the river - tidal though 12 miles inland. We piece together the details - he's in his mid-thirties, realised in his mid-twenties that he was bisexual, lives in a big farmhouse, a teacher on leave trying to write a book on Joyce. He had an extended affair with Maeve. He meets Ruth. We learn about Ellen (aunt, spent decades in the States, jilted almost at the altar by Ruth's father), Josie (aunt? went mute when Una fell down a well and died, died herself after chemo), Lucy (his sister in Australia), his mother who died 2 years back, Iris who misscarriaged?

Ellen life was blighted by Ruth's father about 50 years before. Ellen insists that he give up Ruth. So he does, even though she's coming round to accept his bisexuality.

Some early chapters are short stories with pattern and surprise. The later ones are in Question and Response form (like part of Ulysses?). The questions are more like sub-section headings, e.g. "How does he occupy himself for the evening?" It also has many lists - items in his studio, his books, the similarities between him and Bloom. Narrative doesn't quite disappear - there's a phone call with Ruth. If you're into "interesting facts" you're in for a treat. The author uses up ideas at a fierce pace - syphilis and creativity; multiverses; how to calculate the percentage of the human body that comes from plants. Luke goes out to look at the river - "on the water a trail of God's saliva, the glint of little fishes, the lustre of weeds and grasses, the tremelo of wind in the trees, the blood wounds of the town and its hinterlands trickling into the river, [] the drenched world made visible [] old boats and bicycles marinating in mud, bottles and cans and footballs and dolls and chicken bones and [] Madge Cockran's yellow Escort [] all washed in the blood of the river". Luke experiences epiphanies and euphoria.

The river never goes away. The term "river capture" is explained - it's when one river merges into another. In the last minute of the book "I felt my soul approaching the soul of the river ... I let my soul commingle and become the river's dream". At the end he's still alive on the bank, but he's lost his cat.

It's really 2 books. You can like one without liking the other.

Other reviews

  • Hilary White
  • Eilis O'Hanlon (There are chapters which tell the story more naturalistically, then the author dives back into Luke's head as one thought sparks another. He has heartburn. He remembers that pregnant women get heartburn. He recalls a child that miscarried, whether boy or girl he doesn't know. He notes that more males die in utero, and men die younger generally. He wonders if animals miscarry. He thinks of Stephen Dedalus. ... in terms of difficulty, Costello's second novel is much closer to Ulysses than Finnegans Wake, and it does, largely, reward the required effort.)
  • Carola Huttmann (The last third of the novel is an extended Joycean existential ramble meant to show Luke’s confused state of mind following Ellen’s revelation and her urging that he break things off with Ruth. Drowning his misery in red wine and memories of the past he sinks to ever lower depths of mental anguish.)
  • Melissa Harrison (She renders Luke as a convincing blend of Leopold Bloom and a modern-day man with his own particularities. Likewise, the relationship between Luke and the tidal river, and the patterning that underlies the novel’s structure, are accomplished and satisfying; but having divided the book so strictly into two, the incoming tide that powered the first half becomes rather obstructed, and is at risk of petering out.)
  • Alex Preston (beautifully crafted if obscure)
  • Nick Major (The sudden "capture" of Luke’s life by another novelistic style – one that is composed of a series of long-winded questions and answers –makes for laborious reading. It is almost as if second half is composed of notes the author has made when she was creating Luke’s character, which might well be the point. Regardless of this messy ending, Costello deserves praise for her attempts at formal experimentation, ... too much of her prose is hyperbolic and vague (sex, for example, is described as "the transmutation of lowly instincts into godly essence".) Add this stylistic flaw to the other faults – the "key of life" musings, the superfluous passages about religion and Luke’s eating habits, and the mewling protagonist himself – and you end up with a rather boring novel.)
  • Goodreads