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January’s Best Reviewed Fiction

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Álvaro Enrigue’s You Dreamed of Empires, Kaveh Akbar’s Martyr!, Hisham Matar’s My Friends, Marie-Helene Bertino’s Beautyland, and Kiley Reid’s Come & Get It all feature among this month’s best reviewed fiction titles.

Brought to you by Book Marks, Lit Hub’s home for book reviews.


Álvaro Enrigue_You Dreamed of Empires Cover

1. You Dreamed of Empires by Álvaro Enrigue, trans. by Natasha Wimmer

12 Rave • 3 Positive
Read an excerpt from You Dreamed of Empires here

“Enrigue presents us with two societies that feel far removed from our modern sensibilities, one of which—the Aztec empire—has often been shoddily reproduced, its complexity buffed away … The intricacy of this series of events might have daunted many writers; it’s difficult enough just to portray it accurately and make it comprehensible. Even when someone has done their research—and Enrigue has done it admirably well—the story could easily become ponderous and overblown, a mothballed costume drama. Enrigue’s genius lies in his ability to bring readers close to its tangled knot of priests, mercenaries, warriors and princesses while adding a pinch of biting humor.”

–Silvia Morena-Garcia (The Los Angeles Times)

Kaveh Akbar_Martyr! Cover

2. Martyr! by Kaveh Akbar

12 Rave • 2 Postive

“A deliberately provocative title that suits its protagonist, an Iranian-American poet who is painfully conflicted, heartbreakingly vulnerable, and frequently impossible … Stuffed with ideas, gorgeous images, and a surprising amount of humor … The serious fiction lover’s favorite kind of book, offering plenty to think about and discuss, all of it couched in brilliantly rendered prose that’s a pleasure to read. Let’s hope that Kaveh Akbar’s impressive debut is the first of many novels to come.”

–Wendy Smith (The Boston Globe)

Hisham Matar_My Friends Cover

3. My Friends by Hisham Matar
(Random House)

12 Rave • 1 Positive

“Amid this refined climate of melancholy acceptance arrives the unexpected revolutionary fervor of the Arab Spring of the early 2010s, whose tensions and excitements My Friends captures as well as any novel I have read … Matar weighs these complexities with tremendous sensitivity, and My Friends is not only indispensable for a full understanding of Libyan émigrés but is, more generally, a great novel of exile.”

–Sam Sacks (The Wall Street Journal)

Beautyland Marie-Helene Bertino

4. Beautyland by Marie-Helene Bertino
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

10 Rave • 1 Positive

“…astonishing … Never mind the fault in our stars…this is a book that exults in them … An ineffable sadness and sense of resignation hang over Beautyland, which refuses to give in to sentimentality or serendipity or the idea of everything working out for a reason. It’s the second novel I’ve reviewed in six months that invokes Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, the first being, more obsessively, Ann Patchett’s best-selling Tom Lake. Adina is cast not as Emily, like Patchett’s heroine, but as the narrator, which feels deeply significant. Being an alien here might just be a metaphor for the difficult blessing of feeling enough apart from the thrum of life on Earth to report on its goings-on: to tell a story.”

–Alexandra Jacobs (The New York Times)

Kiley Reid_Come and Get It Cover

5. Come & Get It by Kiely Reid
(G. P. Putnam’s Sons)

6 Rave • 4 Positive • 4 Mixed

“Reid’s exquisitely calibrated tone, which slips tantalizingly between sympathy and satire. She’s so good at capturing both the syrupy support and catty criticism these young women swap, and yet she also demonstrates a profound understanding of their fears and anxieties … The tension in Come and Get It builds slowly … You’re in the presence of a master plotter who’s engineering a spectacular intersection of class, racism, academic politics and journalistic ethics.”

–Ron Charles (The Washington Post)

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