Kennedy, the king of the twisty plot, fires off his big revelations where they will have maximum impact... This novel is a page-turner, with a relentless pace that rushes you over the occasional paragraphs of pointless garrulity, such as: “Can we ever truly run away from those locations within us that we wish were not part of our inner landscape, yet which we also know are a formative part of so much that we are?” These odd bits of flannel don’t slow down the action, though, or the entertainment.
For the past two decades Kennedy has been entertaining readers with barrelling novels in which a parent, sibling or spouse is often the devil in disguise. His latest, The Great Wide Open, takes him to the extremes of this sinister subgenre... Kennedy is skilled at zigzag plotting, blending domestic twists with turns created by global affairs... It’s a marketable strategy but doesn’t play to the author’s strengths. Alice’s treacly love life ... hobbles a book that should be half its length. The book also suffers from some editing slips... There remains much to enjoy, however.
The book is not perfect, but it is absolutely excellent of its kind. Like all of Kennedy’s work, it has a strangely mesmerising effect. He seems always at pains to explain things, and is never happier than when labouring some point or other ... yet what would seem irksome in some authors he gets away with, charming the reader with a kind of modest yet insistent drawling that creates the instant effect of intimacy... Sometimes it’s just too much, particularly in the big summings-up... But mostly The Great Wide Open reads like an old friend recounting a tale over dinner.