Critical Notes

NBCC Roundup September 20, 2010

By Bethanne Patrick

Matthew Tiffany reviews The Junior Officers’ Reading Club in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

It seems strange, given the omnipresence of technology and the Internet in our lives, that we have to rely on something so last-century as a book to give us that nuanced glimpse of the individual in modern warfare. Patrick Hennessey has met that need with this memoir, an arch, unflinching look at the two sides of military service as noted in the subtitle: “Killing Time and Fighting Wars.”

Steve Weinberg on My Lie by Meredith Maran, in the San Francisco Chronicle:

The memoir is not a novel, and reviewers usually worry about acting as spoilers only when reviewing fiction. But Maran's story is so tension-filled that I want to keep some of the twists out of this review, allowing readers of this remarkable book to discover them apart from me.

Julia M. Klein reviews Gail Caldwell's new memoir for Los Angeles Times:

What holds the reader in the end is the elegance and precision of Caldwell's prose, her stiletto-like way with words. And, of course, that the emotions she taps — the joy of communion with a soul mate, the devastation of unexpected loss — are universal. “Grief is what tells you who you are alone,” Caldwell says, beautifully, and that solitude is something all the bereaved — in other words, all of us — will have to reckon with some day.

Steven G. Kellman has a review up at the Sacremento Bee of The Texas Legacy Project: The Texas Legacy Project comes as a refreshing reminder that not everyone in this state assumes a divine right to hunt whooping cranes and pave over Big Bend.  and another on the B&N Review of The Elephant’s Journey by Jose Saramago: This is historical fiction less intent, like Wolf Hall, on immersing us in a fully realized past, than, like The French Lieutenant's Woman, on playing with stereoscopic calibrations between past and present.

Rebecca Oppenheimer’s latest Howard County “Book Bag” column highlights A Geography of Secrets by Frederick Reuss:

Reuss' choice to focus on the quiet sadness of his characters, rather than resorting to emotional histrionics or action sequences, makes the novel all the more powerful. It has profound things to say about work, family and responsibility.

Craig Seligman reviews Emma Donoghue’s Room for Bloomberg News:

“Room,” Donoghue’s seventh novel, was just shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. If I haven’t gone more deeply into the plot, that’s because it’s a nail-biter and I don’t want to give away any of the suspense. All I’ll say is that I forced myself to put the book down and turn off the light at 2 a.m. Three hours later, I gave in and turned it on again.

For Washington Post Book World, Donna Rifkind reviews The Widower’s Tale by Julia Glass:

As she did in “Three Junes” and “The Whole World Over” (but did not manage to do in her strangely constricted last book, “I See You Everywhere”), Glass propels her characters through a world that is sometimes dire but also sweetly normal and often joyful. It's the Glass-half-full version of Lorrie Moore's grief-stricken novel “A Gate at the Stairs.”

Bethanne Patrick is a freelance critic who lives in Arlington, Virginia.