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Lake Success Reviews

Lake Success by Gary Shteyngart

Lake Success

Gary Shteyngart

4.30 out of 5

6 reviews

Imprint: Hamish Hamilton Ltd
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Publication date: 6 Sep 2018
ISBN: 9780241350287

Gary Shteyngart hears America perfectly; its fatuity, its poignant lament, its boisterous self-loathing.

4 stars out of 5
11 Dec 2018

"A trip through America with a pitifully desperate man"

Back in Manhattan for the final part of the narrative, Barry and Seema attend a party on election night, the aftermath of which is described in quasi-apocalyptic terms. For Shteyngart, Trump’s presence overshadows everything: “He has invaded our consciousness to such a degree, elbowed into all our private lives, you can’t escape . . . . It is truly like living in an authoritarian dictatorship”. Though he may have wanted to find release in his fiction, he sees it as his duty as a writer to give the reader “a record of our times”.


4 stars out of 5
Alex Preston
29 Sep 2018

"a book of compelling moral complexity "

Having started out portraying Cohen as a nebbish, a likeable klutz who gets lucky and enormously rich, Shteyngart subtly darkens our picture of him until, at the end of the novel, we loathe our hero. This repugnance is intensified by the parallel narrative of Seema, who not only copes after her husband’s desertion, but flourishes. It all makes for a book of compelling moral complexity whose bleakly powerful ending feels like just deserts for an industry that so far appears largely to have escaped literary censure for the crimes of the financial crisis.

4 stars out of 5
Alex Clark
18 Sep 2018

"hugely entertaining and acute"

Flinging himself on to a Greyhound bus, he sets off in pursuit of… what? An earlier version of himself, an authentic America, and his college girlfriend Layla, now living in El Paso, are some of the rabbits Barry chases down holes in the course of Gary Shteyngart’s hugely entertaining and acute look at the life of not just a muddled man, but a thoroughly confused country. For this road trip takes place at the very moment that America is gearing up to choose its 45th president, a prelapsarian time in which the sound of Trump’s voice puts Barry in mind of “a genuinely sad older man from the outer boroughs”.

4 stars out of 5
Marcel Theroux
13 Sep 2018

"timely and true – and absolutely comfortless"

Lake Success is spiky, timely and true, but also absolutely comfortless. That’s perhaps not surprising, given the times, but it’s also something to do with its choice of central character. The book contains many homages to The Great Gatsby, but it resembles a version of that novel where the lunkish proto-fascist Tom Buchanan is the hero. Gradually, it also becomes clear that Barry himself has some degree of autism. His most passionate attachment is to his watches. One is left wondering whether he can’t face his son’s diagnosis because it would mean acknowledging his own.

4 stars out of 5
Constance Grady
13 Sep 2018

"It would be heartbreaking if it weren’t so funny."

Lake Success skewers the whole idea and subculture of Wall Street bankers detail by damning detail, and every detail is so specific and rings so true as to read like a succession of bull’s eye darts. But what keeps the novel from being a glib and cynical satire is how much affection it holds for Barry and all the other poor suckers of Wall Street... That Shteyngart manages to balance sincere empathy with his subjects with a genuine satirical deconstruction of their culture is what makes Lake Success so compelling.

5 stars out of 5
5 Sep 2018

" the fuel and oxygen of immigrant literature... fire the pistons of this trenchant and panoramic novel"

...chief among this novel’s pleasures is viewing the nation — its landscapes, its people, its curdled politics, its increasingly feudal inequalities — through the vibrant filters of Shteyngart’s Hipstamatic mind... In “Lake Success,” Gary Shteyngart holds his adopted country up to the light, turns it, squints, turns it some more, and finds himself grimacing and laughing in almost equal measure.