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Reviews: Charades

Listed in Toronto Star’s 'Best 10 Novels of the Year'

Shortlisted for Miles Franklin Award and the National Book Award, Australia

Listed by Times and Observer on the 'long short list' of 16 books for the Booker Prize in 1989
(the same year that both Julian Barnes and Martin Amis were on the 'long short list' but not among the six finalists)

Listed in New York Times Book Review's 'Most Notable Books of the Year'


Hospital’s language is juicy with sensuous details, seething with dense metaphors, cross-reference and word play. This is maximalist writing, impressively intelligent and witty... Her prose crackles with energy and imaginative excitement...
New York Times Book Review


Janette Turner Hospital's playful new novel should be subtitled "Scheherazade meets Heisenberg.".. Charades ...questions how we reinvent myths in the age of quantum mechanics... a mutilayered, tantalizing and ultimately quite serious story...
In reaching toward physics as a controlling metaphor, Charades is even more ambitious than her three previous, perceptive, underrated works. Ms Hospital devotes such care to the conversations between Koenig and Charade that she seems to hope for a marriage between old-fashioned myth-making and the scientific principles of a century in which time itself has been reinvented.... returning to a method of storytelling as old as Scheherazade herself.

— Caryn James, New York Times (weekday 'Books of the Times')


A complex and elegant story of love and obsession... dense with meanings and associations...Hospital’s writing is clever and lyrical, and her characterization superb.

Washington Post Book World


I never thought that I would find myself being seduced by a novel about a provincial Australian girl's search for her lost father whose aesthetic was loosely based on the Heisenberg principle – but here I am, having just finished reading Charades... and ready to urge you to pick it up and read it as soon as you can...
Janette Turner Hospital [brings] together such oddments as lost love and opposing theories of modern physics, life in the tropical Pacific and cold Boston and Toronto, the Kennedy assassination and revisionist theories of the Holocaust, and [makes] out of them a reality quite seamless and convincing... This mixture of intelligence and sensuality, idea and deeply felt drama all took me quite by surprise.
Chicago Tribune


Wonderfully subtle and complex

San Francisco Chronicle


A triumphant masterpiece

USA Booklist


What a novel... Charade's stories of scruffy childhoods, Bea's and her own, are original, colorful and endearing... This Australian-born and raised writer ought to be better known among American readers.


Wildly imaginative... a contemporary version of the 1001 Nights... stunning. Hospital writes with luminous wit and ripe sensuality.

— Valerie Miner, Los Angeles Times


Her prose is lucid, sensuous, hard... Only such a first-rate novelist could use the dry material of philosphy and physics to make the hard, compelling narrative stuff of human life.

Independent, UK


Charades makes us realize... with what dazzling power her fiction shines...... a novel in which scientific ideas press upon memory and the flesh... in the prose of Janette Turner Hospital, the musings of Heisenberg are as much at home as the scrub turkeys the child Charade watched fussing around nest mounds in the Queensland rainforest.

Australian Book Review


... her writing simply hums and crackles with pace and tension... Charades is an example of that old-fashioned, almost extinct phenomenon, the novel you can't put down.
Melbourne Age


You could see it as a bicentennial gift – a first Australian novel from an extraordinarily talented Australian writer who has confused the parochial literary issue by placing herself and most of her work in far-off Canada and India and Boston.
Janette Turner Hospital's third novel Borderline (1985) is one of the most perfectly satisfying novels I have ever read. ...Charades is as fascinating, as challenging, as stylishly, enthrallingly readable as Borderline....
Oh yes! – tucked away in Ontario... Turner Hospital knows her Australia and brings it brilliantly to life...
— Katherine England, Adelaide Advertiser


Janette Turner Hospital goes from strength to literary strength – ever brilliant in ideas, graceful in expression, resourceful in story – and in Charades throwing in, for good measure, a heady eroticism. I loved it.

— Fay Weldon (Booker Prize judge, 1989)


Vividly imagined... keeps the reader in thrall.

— David Lodge (Booker Prize judge, 1989)


Charades reaches beyond mere intellectual brilliance and touches something of the paradoxical quality of being alive.

Macleans, Canada


...a journey of strange and beautiful complexity through some of the finest prose written anywhere today... the only certainty in this novel is its astonishing brilliance.

Toronto Star