Book reviews roundup: Lost for Words, Fallout and Everyday Sexism

No reviewer so far has suggested that Lost for Words, Edward St Aubyn's Man Booker prize comedy, stands a chance of winning an award itself, and some have viewed it as an ill-advised exercise. In the London Review of Books, Adam Mars-Jones noted that any also-ran who then writes "a satirical farce about the machinations behind a famous literary prize" lays himself open to the charge of "pique" and "settling a score". Comparing the novel to a frock, he found it "a curious phenomenon, both off-the-peg and strangely skewed, like some sweatshop version of Vivienne Westwood", with "lazy" plotting and "wan" humour that makes it "much less witty than the Patrick Melrose novels". Jonathan Beckman, in the Literary Review, discovered a little more to like, but similarly criticised "lame jokes", "half-arsed" farce and "obvious targets", concluding by wondering if it was "a prankish piece of conceptual art … deliberately marred"; while the Spectator's Sam Leith wrote that it was "only semi-effective because it cartoonishly sends up what is already a cartoon version of the prize. The fish are vaporised; the barrel is shot to splinters." Slightly more positive was the FT's Henry Hitchings, who deemed it "entertaining" but "slight", and the Independent's Louise Jury even managed enthusiasm, calling it a "witty, often excoriating" treatment of "the phenomenon and workings of major literary awards".

Fallout, Sadie Jones's novel about theatre people, ambition and adultery in the 70s, has fared much better. "Every summer needs a One Day-style read; this book is a contender for that crown," wrote the Times's Anne Ashworth, who clearly most relished the period detail ("a faraway land of astrakhan coats, flats without telephones and cars with nicknames such as Janis") and speculated that readers would be split between supporters of the male and female protagonists: "Team Leigh or Team Nina? This looks set to be something that women will fall out about in offices or on beaches this summer." The New York Times's Carmela Ciuraru applauded too ("Ms Jones is unflinching as she plots the course … of wounded lives undone by desperation in love and art"), as did the Sunday Times's Lucy Atkins ("Jones's whispering, confiding style and her astute eye turns what could be unbearable frippery into an intoxicating and immersive read"). In the Observer, Elizabeth Day outdid the others in admiration, calling Fallout "incredibly well written", the work of "a writer at the peak of her powers" who is "not afraid to tell a cracking good story".

Laura Bates's Everyday Sexism, based on her website on which women can post their experiences, won praise from the Sunday Times's Eleanor Mills ("a passionate tome … the posts are so forceful that they tell the story for her") and the Independent's Arifa Akbar ("the picture that emerges is bleak and shocking"). However, the Times's David Aaronovitch, as yet the book's sole male reviewer, felt it "adds little" to the website, and bracketed it with The Vagenda in suggesting that buyers of "blog-books" have a right to "something more … the additional time and thought that being paid to write a book can add". In the Observer, Rachel Cooke similarly contrasted the site ("a wonderful idea") with the book, a "wasted opportunity" that is "pitifully unrigorous" and "includes no plan" for dealing with the misogyny it documents: "The question is: what are we to do about it?"

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