Will Burns is a soulful English poet of the kind we don't make enough of, fiercely intelligent, sensitive to the tiniest nuances of politics or history, attentive to the light and shade of human relationships, constantly addressing ideas of landscape and place with gentle, warm introspection. He is a poet of the unglamorous artificial English homelands, honest about class, memory, unease and experience in a way that few contemporary writers are. He doesn't try and sound clever in the line, he shows across his whole body of work that he is truly wise
I always feel as if - Essex aside - the area surrounding London is a big blank bonut when it comes to arts or literary non-fiction. Finally here is a writer who captures the psychology and topography of these weird market towns and villages where I grew up. We need these nuanced conversations more than ever and in Will's writing I get a real sense of an emerging discussion about what it is to be English and a man in the 21st century. I found it hugely affecting and timely
Will Burns has written a remarkable novel of the pandemic, told from the perspective of an outsider wandering in the heart of the country. His book is a boldly struck chord, one that contains many of the dissonances, but also the harmonies, found in England today
The Paper Lantern captures the changing face of contemporary village life in this spellbinding lament to the Chiltern landscape. Will Burns is the new Defoe
A complex portrait of this small Buckinghamshire town and the odd twists of fate and place that bind people together... he's ended up achieving something quite rare, capturing the unique personality of the Home Counties, and the strangeness of how coronavirus might at once affect everything and nothing in a small Buckinghamshire town. This unique snapshot of time, place and particularly southern English sensibility is a critique made is all the better for being, in its own odd way, quietly celebratory. Perhaps even some of the Paper Lantern's regulars might raise a glass and agree.
This elegiac debut... exerts a steady power, opening an unexpected conduit into the national psyche.
Full of acute social observations, it's a time capsule in the making.
Individual moments are presented as opportunities to recognise the self, the savour our individuality in the world, to experience rather than merely endure
A remarkable achievement in a book that feels at once timely and deeply considered, an antidote to the clickbait, flashing headline style of journalism that has, perhaps understandably, proliferated during the pandemic. From the first page, the insights come hard and fast. There is a pared-back lyricism and clarity to the writing, commentary that is both intelligent and sensitive to the surrounding world . . . The backbone of The Paper Lantern is the author's searing way of detailing the inequalities and issues of modern society . . . There are meticulous arguments on climate change, capitalism and class, particularly the "dull and rapacious middle class" . . . The careful attention to nature and community echo the novels of Sarah Moss
Only a poet as talented as Will Burns could guide us through the landscape of a transformed Britain and reveal with such vivid language its complexity, cruelty and beauty'
Offers a portrait of contemporary England and Englishness which manages to be critical and empathetic all at once