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Culture Vulture: reviews round-up

The critics' verdicts on Ian McEwan, Andrew Rawnsley and Hanif Kureishi.

Solar by Ian McEwan

A chorus of praise for McEwan's latest novel: Solar, writes Tibor Fischer in the Telegraph, which "is chiefly a mash-up of the Hampstead adultery novel and a conflation of the Bradbury/Lodge academic satire". Bringing climate change to the fore in its focus on a junketing physicist, the novel had Fischer rapt: "I was reading Solar while waiting for a delayed flight at Gatwick and the power of Beard's misadventures was such that I didn't mind at all."

In the Financial Times, William Sutcliffe notes the book's advance "to comic territory that is new to McEwan: out-and-out farce, complete with penis-stuck-in-zip jokes and moments that come close to slapstick", concluding that "it is a stunningly accomplished work, possibly his best yet". For Peter Kemp at the Sunday Times, "the book opens up another dimension of McEwan's genius as a novelist . . . Right up to its final moment . . . scarcely a page fails to dazzle with some wittily caught perception about contemporary life."

 

The End of the Party by Andrew Rawnsley

"No dispassionate reader of Andrew Rawnsley's thumping 800 pages could doubt that we have lived through a strange and fascinating passage of British history which is still obscure," writes David Hare in the Guardian. He calls Rawnsley's account "the most thorough, the most enjoyable and the most original book yet written about New Labour".

In the Telegraph, Andrew Gimson proves harder to impress: "there are passages where [Rawnsley] appears with some skill to be parodying the style of an airport thriller". Andy McSmith of the Independent continues: "This is politics reinvented as show business"; the book boasts "questionable accuracy".

Writing for the Observer, the former diplomat Chris Patten splits the difference: this "important if depressing book", he predicts, "will be a bestseller. But I doubt whether it will encourage many people to go into politics."

 

Collected Stories by Hanif Kureishi

" 'I've been thinking a lot lately,' he announces, 'about what a waste of time it is.' The 'it' in question is writing." So Kureishi confided to the Independent last month. His reviewers aren't quite in step: according to Adam Mars-Jones in the Observer, this new collection "shows how useful the [short story] form has been to Hanif Kureishi as a way of thinking against himself"; though "if you know Gogol's 'The Nose' then you're unlikely to be impressed by Kureishi's 'The Penis'."

In the Guardian, Christopher Tayler rules that, if the stories "evince a limited range of character types", then "the book's sustained immersion in middle-aged misery is scarily convincing . . . In spite of the sexual charge to many of the stories, Kureishi's past as a greedy celebrant of urban transgression is mostly a rueful memory."

"The End of the Party" will be reviewed by Roy Hattersley in Thursday's New Statesman. Leo Robson will review "Solar" in a forthcoming issue.

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