Dwight Garner at the NYT:
Herself the daughter of Turkish immigrants and a graduate of Harvard, Batuman is a staff writer at The New Yorker and the author of “The Possessed: Adventures With Russian Books and the People Who Read Them” (2010). That book was a witty and melancholy tour de force about reading and love and the pleasures of travel as against tourism.
That same voice is poured into “The Idiot.” It’s memorable to witness Selin, via Batuman, absorb the world around her. Each paragraph is a small anthology of well-made observations.
Only Batuman would send a character in search of new clothes and have her think, “what was ‘Cinderella,’ if not an allegory for the fundamental unhappiness of shoe shopping?”
Selin notes the “death roar” of an institutional toilet. She observes how, lighting a cigarette, “when the flame came into contact with the paper, it made a sound like the needle coming down on a record player.”