REVIEWS

11.05.17. Forthcoming review of November in Race&Class

I’m very grateful to Chris Searle, whose review of November for Race&Class is scheduled for publication in that journal’s July issue. In his review,  Searle refers to November as a ‘startling and deeply empathetic novel’ and also to its ‘stark, lucid, yet powerfully figurative prose’.

 

December 2016. First review on amazon.com

The review immediately below was posted on amazon.com on 4th December 2016 by Don Dal Maso, a US friend (whom I’ve never yet met), who has just finished reading ‘November’. I’m most grateful to him.

For amazon:

This Novel Triumphs
Customer rating 5.0/5.0
December 4, 2016 By Donald F. Dal Maso

As this extraordinary novel gains its due notice in the world of letters in the months and years ahead, we can expect revelatory discussions about its form, the voice or voices of its innermost character, the interplay of its themes.

Meanwhile those of us who read will do what we do best: Delight and rejoice in the sentences and paragraphs of a born writer who enraptures us as he tells a story.

Christopher Woodall lives quietly somewhere in Britain and has in the past served as the excellent translator of such superb fiction as “The Company of Ghosts” by Lydie Salvayre, the book that first put his name in front of me. I now am certain that his own novel “November” will launch him into world-wide recognition and deep connection to those readers who still hope for happiness and, yes, redemption through the arts of language.

There are countless reasons to engage with the 14 persons of this book and their work. A reader is immersed in their physicality; taken up whole into their interiority; disoriented and dismayed by their conflicts. And that does not begin to touch on the surging dialectic of the book’s form and development.

I will say here briefly that, among the many other riches in this book and like the greatest writers, Woodall tells his reader the truth: Human meaning, love and salvation (if there is any) come to each of us through recapitulation and renewal.

Thank You Dalkey Archive Press and John O’Brien–you’ve done it again.

———————————————————————————————–

KIRKUS REVIEW (January 2016)

Debut novel, set in working-class France, by British writer and translator Woodall.
Don’t ask what they make in the plastics factory down by the center of a nondescript French town. The answer might be discomfiting, what with specifications of “conjugation of uncommon length with uncommon slenderess” and the requirement of “a threefold ablutionary regime.” The mostly immigrant laborers who work there for one Gérard Boucan, “factory owner, faithless husband, and bewildered father to a wayward son,” do so mostly because doing so keeps them fed—but also because it affords them a tiny toehold on the French dream, at least as it played out in the waning years of the Giscard d’Estaing regime. Then, the story suggests, it was at least possible for people from every corner of the French sphere, from the Indian Ocean and the Mahgreb and Afrique Noir, to come together without wishing to kill one another—indeed, often with quite the opposite intent, to judge by all the coupling and decoupling that goes on here. Woodall’s is less a novel of ideas than of attitudes, each character exploring his—almost all are male—ideas of what the Other constitutes. The sometimes-threatening, sometimes-miscreant Portuguese immigrant Fernando is astonished to learn that it is possible to be African and not criminal: “What’s wrong with you?” he asks Alphonse. “You don’t smoke, you keep out of trouble, you don’t drink, I bet you don’t even fuck.” Fernando, Rachid, Philippe, Salvatore, and the others on the floor more than make up for all that. Yet, though it would be simple for Woodall to reduce his characters to stereotypes, he resists abstraction; as each collides with the next, they come away changed a little. Talky between spasms of action, the novel—whose sequel is in process—is reminiscent at points of Jean Eustache’s 1973 film The Mother and the Whore: complex, deep, and seemingly unending.
Overlong and a touch undisciplined but rewarding.