Inland is a classic story, told in a classic way - and yet it feels wholly and unmistakably new... Obreht offers a new representation of the West, both in the characters she chooses and the emotional rigor and range with which she writes. The result is at once a new Western myth and a far realer story than many we have previously received - and that's even with all the ghosts.
It's eight years since Obreht's debut, The Tiger's Wife, made her the youngest winner of the Orange Prize. Inland, her second novel, is an equally skilful exploration of myth and fable, and histories both forgotten and elaborated
As it should be, the landscape of the West itself is a character, thrillingly rendered throughout... Here, Obreht's simple but rich prose captures and luxuriates in the West's beauty and sudden menace. Remarkable in a novel with such a sprawling cast, Obreht also has a poetic touch for writing intricate and precise character descriptions.
What Obreht pulls off here is pure poetry. It doesn't feel written so much as extracted from the mind in its purest, clearest, truest form
This exquisite frontier tale from the author of The Tiger's Wife is a timely exploration of the darkness beneath the American dream ... The historical detail is immaculate, the landscape exquisitely drawn; the prose is hard, muscular, more convincingly Cormac McCarthy than McCarthy himself ... [The] paranormal element reminds us strongly of George Saunders's Lincoln in the Bardo ... Inland also feels of a piece with another recent novel, Sarah Perry's Melmoth, a brilliantly eerie gothic tale in which the horrors of history are condensed into a single ghostly figure
Every page is a triumph - even if you don't think you like Westerns. Trust me, this book will make you a believer.
This free-ranging tale of an American frontierswoman should have been on the Booker longlist... I'm already looking forward to whatever Obreht writes next.
A captivating, sweeping novel
Téa Obreht's M.O. is clear: She's determined to unsettle our most familiar, cliché-soaked genres . . . Inland can feel like Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian turned inside out: contemplative rather than rollicking, ghostly rather than blood-soaked . . . giving so much of the novel's stage to Nora makes this a less familiar woman's western, one that's more about resilience, wit and family than frontier justice.
Téa Obreht was just 25 when she wrote her Orange Prize-winning debut The Tiger's Wife, a lush and magical retelling of the bloody history of the Balkans. Her new book ventures into the Wild West for an intricate, slow-burn two-hander that, while more sober and rugged, by no means ditches her interest in the supernatural
This book is everything you'd expect the literary event of 2019 to be: sweeping, confident, ambitious, well-researched and difficult ... it really packs a punch ... it is moving and learned, and it reminds us how the history of America has always been about trying to create a home in a hostile place
Obreht is superb at tracing such inescapable wounds, both personal and national. Her 2011 Orange prize-winning debut, The Tiger's Wife, mapped the aftermath of civil conflict in an unnamed "Balkan country still scarred by war", which was based on her native Serbia ... The fictional territory of Inland is as vivid and as violent: Arizona in the second half of the 19th century, populated by "cowpokes and prospectors", gunslingers and cattle kings - and, yes, cameleers ... Exquisitely panoramic ... compelling ... On every page gorgeously tinted images conjure the otherworldliness of this desert existence ... Obreht's narrative skill here is part of the magic of Inland, which succeeds spectacularly at reinventing a well-worn genre and its tropes. There are no stereotypes in this western, only ferociously adroit writing that honours the true strangeness of reality in its search for the meaning of home
There is so much to admire and enjoy here: the interplay of magic and reason, the threats of progress, the tribalism of a nation forming. Above all the difficulty of simply living alongside one another, evoked in Obreht's masterful language, variously lyrical, hilarious, and profound
Refreshing ... plenty of fine descriptive writing to admire
Obreht has a gift for vivid language and deft stories-within-stories ... She gives words fresh purposes, to great effect; verbs sizzle ... haunting.
At a time when old-fashioned storytelling seems to be in decline, Téa Obreht is a class apart ... a bustling, bravura adventure that's part Western, part Cormac McCarthy and part Obreht's unique blend of spiritual realism ... This is not a novel to gulp down, but to savour, as Obreht fleshes out every possible detail in language that tastes both of the soil and of the skies. The final chapter, meanwhile, rich in poignant symbolism, is a wonder
The most thrilling discovery in years
Set at the end of the 19th century, it has dual narratives of a frontierswoman and a former outlaw. Suspenseful, atmospheric, near mythical in tone, and lyrically written
Set against a backdrop of hardship and saturated with magic and myth, this ambitious novel is a modern masterpiece, culminating in an unforgettable ending
It will enchant lovers of lyrical prose and the myth of the American West.
With Inland Obreht makes a renewed case for the sustained, international appeal of the American West, based on a set of myths that have been continually shaped and refracted through outside lenses . . . Discovering the particular genre conventions that Obreht has chosen to transfigure or to uphold soon becomes central to the novel's propulsive appeal.
A tremendously talented writer
[Obreht] has used the little-known existence of the Camel Corps as the inspiration for Inland, her propulsive second novel ... Infectious storytelling ... Obreht is as engrossing with her depiction of the colourful and disparate encounters experienced by Lurie and Burke as she is on the claustrophobia of small-town rivalries
Sparkling descriptions ... Obreht is alive to the sharp, enduring pain of grief and how it alters even the most mundane aspects of life - and she convincingly conjures the jagged anxiety of clinging on to life and livelihood in the face of terrible odds
The unrelenting harshness of existence in the unsettled American West sharply focuses what Obreht refers to as 'the uncertain and frightening textures of the world' in this mesmerizing historical novel spun from two primary narrative threads . . . The novel's unforgettable finale, evocative and grimly symbolic, crystallizes its underlying themes of how inconsolable grief and unforgivable betrayal shape the circumstances that bind its characters to their fates. Obreht knocks it out of the park in her second novel.
Obreht brings her extraordinarily intricate worldview, psychological and social acuity, descriptive artistry, and shrewd, witty, and zestful storytelling to another provocative inquiry into the mysteries of place, nature, and human complexities... As her protagonists' lives converge, Obreht inventively and scathingly dramatizes the delirium of the West-its myths, hardships, greed, racism, sexism, and violence-in a tornadic novel of stoicism, anguish, and wonder.
Obreht's novels are capital-E Events - big, ambitious, provocative reading experiences...At last we have Inland, a bracingly epic and imaginatively mythic journey across the American West in 1893, in which the lives of a former outlaw and a frontierswoman collide and intertwine.
A frontier tale dazzles with camels and wolves and two characters who never quite meet. Eight years after Obreht's sensational debut, The Tiger's Wife, she returns with a novel saturated in enough realism and magic to make the ghost of Gabriel García Márquez grin. She keeps her penchant for animals and the dead but switches up centuries and continents. Having won an Orange Prize for The Tiger's Wife, a mesmerizing 20th-century Balkan folktale, Obreht cuts her new story from a mythmaking swatch of the Arizona Territory in 1893 . . . Obreht throws readers into the swift river of her imagination . . . [A] deep stoicism, flinty humor, and awe at the natural world pervade these characters. [Lurie and Nora] are both treacherous and good company . . . The final, luminous chapter is six pages that will take your breath away.
Obreht uses her prodigious writing gifts to create a new mythology for the American West, one that glimmers with the intensity of a desert mirage.
It's a voyage of hilarious and harrowing adventures, told in the irresistible voice of a restless, superstitious man determined to live right but tormented by his past. At times, it feels as though Obreht has managed to track down Huck Finn years after he lit out for the Territory and found him riding a camel. She has such a perfectly tuned ear for the simple poetry of Lurie's vision... Sip slowly, make it last.
Magnificent . . . brings to mind similar effects in, say, Gabriel García Márquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude or Toni Morrison's Beloved.
The landscape of the West itself is a character, thrillingly rendered throughout in phrases such as "red boil of twilight" and "a stillness so vast the small music of the grasses could not rise to fill it." Here, Obreht's simple but rich prose captures and luxuriates in the West's beauty and sudden menace. Remarkable in a novel with such a sprawling cast, Obreht also has a poetic touch for writing intricate and precise character descriptions... Inland has the stoic heroic characters and the requisite brutal violence of the western genre, but the decision to place an immigrant and a middle-aged mother at its center is a welcome deviation... In Obreht's hands, this is an era that overflows with what the dead want, and with wants that lead to death. Her two central characters may not be who we have been conditioned to think of when we conjure the old American West, but they, too, are America.
"Obreht is the kind of writer who can forever change the way you think about a thing, just through her powers of description . . . Inland is an ambitious and beautiful work about many things: immigration, the afterlife, responsibility, guilt, marriage, parenthood, revenge, all the roads and waterways that led to America. Miraculously, it's also a page-turner and a mystery, as well as a love letter to a camel, and, like a camel, improbable and splendid, something to happily puzzle over at first and take your breath away at the end.