Apr/May 2023

e c l e c t i c a   r e v i e w s  & 
i n t e r v i e w s

Reviews & Interviews

(These are excerpts—click on the title to view the whole piece!)

Ann Skea reviews...

by Ann-Helén Laestadius, translated by Rachel Willson-Broyles

The man is someone Elsa knows. He had been in the process of cutting off the identifying marks on the animal's ears, but in his hurry, he dropped one. Elsa finds it and hides it in her pocket, later secretly drying it and using it for comfort as she tries to come to terms with her grief and with the threat to her and her family if she tells anyone the man's name.

Return to Valetto
by Dominic Smith

The result of this revelation echoes through the rest of the book. Fascism and retribution for past wrongs become as important as the outcome of Alessia's claim on the cottage. Mixed in with this, however, is preparation for grandmother Ida's 100th birthday celebration—a donkey-pageant and meal—to which she has invited everyone in Valetto, plus everyone who has left it to live elsewhere, plus an unknown number of others. She has no idea how many will turn up.

Birnam Wood
by Eleanor Catton

The slower early part of the book, as Catton develops her characters" personalities, documents Tony's rants, and follows Mira and Shelley as they examine their own lives, work the soil, and reflect on current political dilemmas (the "sorry" question, cultural appropriation, inter-generational guilt, for example)—all this is far outweighed by the threats, the dangers, and the uncertainties they face, and the cynicism and cleverness of Lemoine and his carefully controlled manipulation of others.

Seven Empty Houses
by Samanta Schweblin, translated by Megan McDowell

You know the list-making woman wants to die, and when it seems imminent, is dismayed when it doesn't happen. You know she is aware when strange and worrying things seem to occur, in spite of her list. You know, too, she relies on her equally elderly husband, although she only ever refers to him disparagingly as "he" and "him."

Stuart Ross reviews...

Sonata for Piano and Violin
by Matthew Gasda

Sonata for Piano and Violin is an unusual contemporary novel—especially for a New York novel by a twentysomething—in that it doesn't seem in dialogue with any cultural moment, now, then, or in the future. To put it somewhat harshly, it doesn't care what this time thinks about it. It therefore seems to come from some other type of time, the love that came before, the timelessness it takes to pull the petals apart on the mental lily.