Category: Literary Fiction Reviews

A review of On Earth We Are Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

The story begins as a huge flight of monarch butterflies starts their yearly migration to the south. This is a metaphor for Vuong’s migration to America from Vietnam. When the book reaches its final pages, the flight of the monarch butterflies is resumed, and we can see and hear them beating their wings in unison as they continue their journey, many dropping to their deaths en-route.

A review of The Leaves by Jacqueline Rule

Jacqueline Rule makes good use of her legal experience in Luke’s story, which is tragic, spotlighting just how broken the foster system he ends up cycling through is, or how brutal the legal detention system, and the way in which it traumatises rather than helps the young people caught in it.

A review of Turn Up the Heat by Ruth Danon

Light and heat serve as central metaphors for comfort. They represent the warmth Danon so desperately craves as an antidote to the cold she fears. Her fear is deeply rooted in the uncertainty and anxiety that accompany illness and hospitalization.

A review of Review of Pigeon House by Shilo Niziolek

Niziolek does not play safe with any of her stories; ‘The Fisherman’s Wife’, for example, at first appears like a folkloric tale told many times before, but Niziolek’s vengeful twist provides this tale with a squeeze of lemon. There is something gloriously satisfying and almost palate cleansing in the way Niziolek seeks to subvert her reader’s expectations.

A review of Passenger by Cormac McCarthy

In the interest of full disclosure (and how seldom we hear of disclosure that is not full), I didn’t like the authorial voice of The Passenger from the first page. But we’ll come to Alicia and her troubles later. To continue with the discussion of signifiers, here we have an author steeped in Americana: the American story, as understood by America, and the cultural signifiers best known by Americans.

A review of Prétend by Arielle Burgdorf

I love this book. It is located at the crossroads (if not terminus) of cultural appropriation, mistranslation, gender and identity fluidity. Carrère’s fake identity novel, the brilliantly glib aspersions of Nightwood — all this and more are revivified in Arielle Burgdorf’s masterful take on identity in an increasingly amorphous world.

A review of Red Milk by Sjón

Though I can understand, and perhaps even entertain, Sjón’s intentions regarding his latest work, I think that both the writing style and characterization seem a bit too simplistic, falling flat in the end and leaving the reader feeling that this could be much more intriguing if the Icelandic wordsmith followed his traditional recipe, creating sentences that urge you to read them aloud in order to bask in their brilliance.

A review of Tom Lake by Ann Patchett

Chekhov, however, is writing about class changes in the Russia of his day, so Our Town, an American work, seems more likely to be an influence on Patchett than The Cherry Orchard” is. Like Thornton Wilder, Ann Patchett shows the value of rural life, family and community, but, by presenting Lara’s earlier life, she acknowledges the significance of the wider world in making her knowledgeable and open-minded.  Tom Lake is not as parochial as Our Town.