Book reviews roundup: Elizabeth is Missing, My Salinger Year and Mr Mercedes

What the critics thought of Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey, My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff and Mr Mercedes by Stephen King

Elizabeth Is Missing, the debut novel by 26-year-old Emma Healey, which tackles dementia, "has been dubbed 'Gone Gran'," noted Rosamund Urwin in the Evening Standard, after Gillian Flynn's bestseller Gone Girl. Like that book, it "has the mysterious disappearance of a woman at its heart. Its publisher, Viking, will also be hoping it replicates Gone Girl's success: the company fought off eight rivals for the book and paid a six-figure sum." Urwin's verdict was that the novel is "charming but never cloying", though "the ending itself is a little anticlimatic". But other reviews were ecstatic. "Normally a well-observed, literary novel that accurately shows us ourselves by deepening our knowledge of what it is to be human cannot manage, as well, to be both a comedy and a thriller. Elizabeth is Missing, however, encompasses these genres and deserves prizes in all categories," judged Philippa Perry in the Independent: "we have two main themes. How it feels to experience dementia, and a page-turner of a detective story. If I had to describe it in one word, it would be "beautiful". It is a gripping thriller, but it's also about life and love." According to Joan Smith in the Sunday Times, it's "no conventional crime novel but a compelling work that crosses literary genres … The result is bold, touching and hugely memorable.

Joanna Rakoff has received warm reviews for her memoir My Salinger Year, about working in a fusty New York literary agency, the firm who represented JD Salinger. Suzanne Berne in the New York Times called it "breezy", and commented that the real star of the book is "the Agency itself, with its Dictaphones and fox stoles, its wistful attempts to cling to the days of "Thin Man movies and steamship travel" by fending off the technological revolution and uncouth commercialisation … Even Rakoff's vintage outfits evoke a kinder, gentler, pre-twerking era." Jane Shilling in the Daily Telegraph was caught up in it, too: "Who knows what Salinger, so fiercely protective of his own seclusion, would have thought of his role as the trellis around which this graceful, rather elusive fragment of memoir twines its elegant prose?"

John Sutherland in the Times reckoned Mr Mercedes by Stephen King, a rare venture for the horror author into hard-boiled crime, is "as good as anything he's previously done" – a return to form after the decline following the author's serious car crash. "I put off as long as I decently could reading the last 10 pages because I wanted to prolong the anticipatory excitement of not knowing whether it was going to be a sting-in-the-tail ending … or one of those morally complicated last scenes as in The Dead Zone. Enough to say, Mr Mercedes goes out not with one bang, but several — all satisfyingly unexpected." But his was a lone voice. For Katie Law in the Evening Standard, the novel, which begins with a "straightforwardly nasty psychopath" piling a Mercedes into a crowd, is "a bit limp". James Kidd in the Independent was more forthright: "The plot is, essentially, a two-hander between a hero and villain who emerge like photocopies of other people's sharper ideas … Whatever mystery and velocity this game of cat-and-mouse generates is hampered by King's exhaustive establishment of his fictional world. This basically means endless brand names, overlong explanations of everything … and conversational longueurs that Karl Ove Knausgaard would dismiss as tedious. The real drawback, however, is King's prose … At its worst, it is a twee mish-mash of folk wisdom and contemporary jargon."

The Guardian

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Book reviews roundup: Beryl Bainbridge; All We Shall Know; The Wonder
What the critics thought of Beryl Bainbridge: Love by All Sorts of Means by Brendan King; Donal Ryan’s All We Shall Know and The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

30, Sep, 2016 @5:00 PM

Critical eye: roundup of reviews
11.22.63 by Stephen King, Anthony Horowitz's The House of Silk, No Higher Honour by Condoleezza Rice and Back to Work by Bill Clinton

18, Nov, 2011 @10:55 PM

Article image
Book reviews roundup: Solo, Music at Midnight: the Life and Poetry of George Herbert and Doctor Sleep
What the critics thought of Solo by William Boyd, Music at Midnight: the Life and Poetry of George Herbert by John Drury and Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

04, Oct, 2013 @4:40 PM

Book reviews roundup
Linda Grant's We Had It So Good, Patrick French's India and Adam Mars-Jones's Cedilla

22, Jan, 2011 @12:06 AM

Book reviews roundup
GK Chesterton: A Biography by Ian Ker and Wish You Were Here by Graham Swift

03, Jun, 2011 @11:09 PM

Book reviews roundup
What to Look For in Winter: A Memoir of Blindness by Candia McWilliam, Anne Frank: The Book, the Life, the Afterlife by Francine Prose and Room by Emma Donoghue

06, Aug, 2010 @11:05 PM

Book reviews roundup
Jane Shilling's The Stranger in the Mirror, Eric Hobsbawm's How to Change the World and Tessa Hadley's The London Train

29, Jan, 2011 @12:06 AM

Book reviews roundup
As Good As God, As Clever As the Devil by Rodney Bolt, Emperor of Lies by Steve Sem-Sandberg and Memoirs by William Rees-Mogg

15, Jul, 2011 @9:55 PM

Book reviews roundup
On China by Henry Kissinger, The Girl in the Polka Dot Dress by Beryl Bainbridge and The Origins of Political Order by Francis Fukuyama

27, May, 2011 @11:09 PM

Book reviews roundup
Zadie Smith's NW and Pat Barker's Toby's Room

07, Sep, 2012 @9:50 PM