Joanna Kavenna at Literary Review:
Nelson is an award-winning essayist and poet, whose previous works include a collection of aphorisms mainly about the colour blue, Bluets; two books about the murder of her aunt, Jane: A Murder and The Red Parts; a meditation on violence and art, The Art of Cruelty; and perhaps her best-known book, The Argonauts, about love, pregnancy and motherhood, among other things. People often say that Nelson’s work defies genre but this is the least interesting aspect of her writing – since around 1910 (with apologies to Woolf), defying genre has been a genre in itself. More interesting is the boundlessly inventive way Nelson deals with questions of authority and fragility, or how to say anything at all when reality has gone AWOL.
Nelson asks: what do we mean when we speak of freedom? ‘Positive freedom? Anarchist freedom? Marxist freedom? Abolitionist freedom? Libertarian freedom?’ All or none of the above? She wonders if people are losing their appetite for freedom, citing James Baldwin: ‘I have met only a very few people … who had any real desire to be free.’