Reviews of Caribou Island

“A work of Art.”—El Pais

58 French reviews

50 reviews from English editions:

Caribou Island gets to places other novels can’t touch. By the end, I felt the senseless logic of the dream. Though it wears the clothes of realism — the beautiful exactness of the language, the unerring eye for detail — it takes us someplace darker, older, more powerful than the daylit world. This Alaska with its salmon boats and trash dumps becomes a stage for ancient stories of survival and will and connection and love, and also, in the end, the failures of love.”—The New York Times Book Review

‘‘Everything that made Legend so absorbing, and rightly acclaimed, is here deepened and strengthened … As a portrait of stymied lives and broken dreams, it is more vivid than the most-praised novel of last year, Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom, which feels like a soap opera in comparison … Caribou Island is a novel of fine artistry and stark emotional truth — full of our darkest currents and faintest sounds’’—The Times (London)

“Whatever about the frenzied tootling that accompanied Jonathan Franzen’s doorstop Freedom, Caribou Island is a leaner, meaner and more devastatingly realistic portrayal of family relationships, couples andhow life’s missed opportunities and regrets can curdle into something altogether more dangerous. And Vann might even be more worthy of the title ‘great American novelist’.”—The IrishIndependent

“An engrossing and disturbing work of art.”—Alan Cheuse review on NPR.

“Vann’s first book, the story collection Legend of a Suicide (2008), earned him the acclaim of being one of the best writers of his generation. His first novel is a worthy successor. Abounding in language that heightens our senses for the next evocative metaphor, Caribou Island gives us a climax as haunting and realized as any in recent fiction.”—San Francisco Chronicle

“Greatness has arrived: Caribou Island is a powerful first novel of love, lust, and regret set on an island near Soldotna, a fishing town on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula…Vann slowly and quietly builds the drama toward an emotional gut-punch of an ending–think Cormac McCarthy on ice.”—Outside

“Moving, powerful…Vann’s people are hurtling irretrievably toward a dark outcome, and while putting the book down might save you from it, you can’t stop reading, just as you can’t unlearn its truths.”—The Los Angeles Times

“Caribou Island is a beautiful, richly atmospheric if unsettling novel, and deserves to consolidate Vann’s position among America’s literary high flyers.”—The Evening Standard

“Transfixing and unflinching … full of finely realized moments … Comparison with Cormac McCarthy is fully justified.”—Times Literary Supplement (UK)

“Compared to Caribou Island, The Road is grim-lit lite…Welcome to Vann’s demon land.”—London Review of Books

“Explodes in a tremendously disturbing conclusion. The ending of “Caribou Island” is amply foreshadowed, but the minor incidents that build to it are so believably presented that it still has the capacity to shock.”—The Wall Street Journal

“A novel as precise and unflinching as this makes other recently celebrated books seem melodramatic. Caribou Island proves that art wrought from personal pain and obsessed with negative emotion can still be profoundly positive.”—The Canberra Times

“This is a fast-paced, can’t-put-it-down story, perfect for a winter’s night!!”—Harbor Light (Michigan)

“David Vann’s Caribou Island is my favorite novel of the past few years.”—The Paris Review

“The prose here frequently achieves a quite astonishing beauty…Vann’s ability to hear the texture of words sometimes seems Heaneyesque in its virtuosity.”—The Telegraph

“David Vann’s debut, Legend Of A Suicide, packed a huge ­emotional punch; here Vann is on equally devastating form.”—The Daily Mail

“This novel gave me the willies…The dark, brooding, end-of-the-world feeling to the landscape and the seascape makes human follies loom larger than usual, and seem more devastating in their consequences.”—National Post (Canada)

“Caribou Island is a bleak book, as bleak as an Alaskan winter, but it also wields an unforgiving, elemental power that is breathtaking to read.”—The Independent

“This bleak, beautifully written and bitterly funny novel provides, appropriately enough, cold comfort. But at least, unlike the uplift peddled by Palin, one can believe that the person providing it has enough hard-won wisdom to see what he’s describing with clear eyes.”—Financial Times

“Vann is a poet of the animal swings between men and women struggling for the upper hand.”—The Cleveland Plain Dealer

“A writer to read and reread.  A man to watch carefully.”—The Economist

“Vann, who was born in Alaska, handles conflicted feelings of love and resentment, and the raw, existential cries of ordinary people, extraordinarily well. And although he’s a graceful writer, he never spins the kind of poetic prose that infects too many literary novels with distracting prettiness. But is the ending too much, too Gothic, too masochistic in its determination to make these hapless characters pay for surviving, for imagining that hope isn’t a cheat? As the final pages rise into the piercing registry of Cormac McCarthy – or Euripides – some readers may spot Vann’s thumb on the scale, making sure every drop of agony is paid. But just wait: For a few moments after this perfectly choreographed horror, it’s impossible to say anything at all.”—Washington Post review by Ron Charles

“Literary Masterpiece.”—The Anchorage Daily News

“Debut novel from American heavyweight David Vann starts off 2011 with a bang.”—Booktrust (UK)

“Muscular description and deep characters make this novel impossible to put down.”—The National (United Arab Emirates)

“Both works [Legend of a Suicide and Caribou Island] are intense tragedies set against an unforgiving landscape. Both are delivered in clear, lyric prose.”—The Denver Post

“Like McCarthy’s The Road, there were times when I wanted this brutal, honest novel to stop. Not to end but to stop, so I could catch my breath and put some distance between myself and Vann’s desperate characters…In Caribou Island, Vann, who has turned his boyhood pain and confusion into a clear-eyed understanding of the human condition, has broadened his canvas and honoured his promise as one of the most exciting writers at work today.”—Stephen Romei, The Australian

“The harsh beauty of Alaska is the star turn in Vann’s disturbing novel.”—The New Yorker

“Vann established himself as one of the most exciting new talents to come out of America with his short-story collection Legend of a Suicide, which was loosely based around his father’s death. This first novel, set once again in Alaska , proves it was no fluke, and that he is an extravagantly gifted and moving writer.”—The Sunday Times (London)

“Surely one of the most eagerly anticipated novels of the year . . . Caribou Island is a scant 300 pages, and written in prose as pellucid as the rivers he used to fish as a boy. But it says so much: about men and women, about marriage, about the desperate gap between who we want to be and who we are.”—The Observer (London)

“Caribou Island earns Vann a seat beside the masters—no longer as a student but as a peer. A+”—San Francisco Magazine

“Vann’s brilliance lies in his willingness to expose all.  A striking novel filled with the violence borne of a bitter life.”—Kirkus, starred review

“An existential page-turner and literary breakthrough.”—Kirkus profile

“Vann is a forceful, potent writer.”—The Guardian

“Writing born of tremendous passion.”—The Sunday Telegraph

“Firmly in the hard-bitten tradition of John Steinbeck and Ernest Hemingway, all terse dialogue, rural majesty and unspeakable tragedy…a masterpiece.”—Metro

“It is terrific, to my mind. I can’t wait to read his next one.”—Tom Sutcliffe, The Independent on Sunday

“When writing about landscapes, David Vann writes with a poetry born of connectedness, of deep observation.”—Boston Globe

“In beautifully stark language that conveys both the raw physicality of the Alaskan landscape and the naked pain of the characters, “Caribou Island” moves briskly, with compassion, insight and suspense.  The horror at the end cannot be guessed at, but is finely and painfully logical in its unfolding.  Far from a depressing read, “Caribou Island” is satisfying in its story craft and illustration of the human condition, evoking a line from blues singer Robert Cray: “In the silence I can hear their breaking hearts.”—The MetroWest Daily News

“Vann keeps the pages turning with the skill of the best mystery novelists.”—Associated Press

“Reaffirms Vann as a talented conjurer of the natural world, and of our nakedness in the face of its power and cruel impassivity.”—Ian Crouch, The New Republic

“The storm scenes are brilliant; even better are the various cabin-building sequences and the shockingly graphic episode at the cannery.”—The Irish Times

“Vann, an Alaska native, nails his locale—the small towns and wilderness.”—The Sunday Oregonian

“It’s rare when a fiction writer of extraordinary literary merit is equally brilliant in both the short story and novel forms.  David Vann is a dazzling exception.  Caribou Island is deeply in touch with the same dark truths of the human condition as his remarkable story collection, Legend of a Suicide, and in the longer form he gives the reader sustained, rich joy. Yes, joy.  Vann knows the darkness but he writes from the compassionate light of art.  This is an essential book.”—Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Olen Butler

“Vann, who received acclaim for his short-story collection Legend of a Suicide (2008), renders luminous prose in this haunting tale of hardened hearts and broken dreams.”— Allison Block, Booklist

“The reader’s awareness of real deaths, real griefs, gives his work something of the lethal intensity of hand­ling an unsheathed knife: at times the power is exhilarating, and at other times it cuts bloodily and to the quick.”—New Statesman

“An impressive debut novel…Vann delivers an authentic story, even lyrical at times. He is a writer headed for notable accomplishments. Enthusiastically recommended.”—Library Journal

“The events and language are often as bleak and beautiful as the ice-choked wilderness backdrop.”—The Herald Scotland

“In this exceptional first novel, an oncoming Alaska winter becomes metaphor as a troubled marriage moves implacably toward a bleak reckoning. Caribou Island is an unflinching portrait of bad faith and bad dreams.”—Ron Rash

“David Vann is a writer who has managed the art of power under control, like a great actor whose whisper can reach the last row. ‘Caribou Island’ is brilliance on every page. And that’s the final word.”—By The Book Reviews

“Thrilling Debut…A taut and riveting study of isolation, insanity, and violence.”—Bret Anthony Johnston, Men’s Journal

“Worthy not only of his immediate influences (Tobias Wolff, Cormac McCarthy, Annie Proulx), but also of Chekhov.”—Chris Cox, Times Literary Supplement

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