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The Boston Globe


Book Review

‘You Are One of Them’ by Elliott Holt

At times it seems as if we have become so accustomed to seeing the trademarks of ego in writing — long titles, excessive footnotes, clever copyright pages, ersatz diagrams, illustrations, clever self-referential phrases, and other odd features once lumped together under the even-then-old label “postmodern,” now just deemed normal — that it’s almost a shock when an author takes herself out of a story. Fun though these tweaks might be, it can be just as surprising and enjoyable to read a book in which the author asserts herself by letting the book speak for her, by removing herself.

Elliott Holt’s debut novel, “You Are One of Them,” a story about youth, about lying, about the Cold War, about Russia, and about womanhood, approaches its heady subjects by letting them live and breathe through the narrative itself. To read it is to forget you’re reading a work of literature, and instead to think that someone is telling you a story — someone who happens to have a wildly intelligent sense of detail and just enough restraint to keep her storytelling skill from showing its seams.

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