The Panopticon

by joseph ridgwell

Every once in a while, a book appears in literature whose effect is immediate. Jenni Fagan’s remarkable debut novel, The Panopticon, is I feel, one such candidate. Due for publication in May 2012 by William Heinemann, the novel charts the adventures of its heroine, Anais Hendricks, as she battles her way through the Kafkaesque like environs of  a corrupt and failing Scottish care system. With a penchant for Dior hats, vintage erotica, Class A drugs, 1920’s fashion, non-conformism, Paris and solitary masturbation, the scene, as they say, is set. And that’s all I’m prepared to give away of the plot. Needless to say, it is a page turning, exhilarating and shocking ride, the prose of which has a deftness and lightness of touch that few, if any, debut novelists are able to master.

In the words of William Burroughs –

‘The writer has been there or he can’t write about it. They are trying to create a universe in which they have lived or would like to live. To write they must go there and submit to conditions which they may not have bargained for…’

Or in my own words –

‘To produce anything of literary worth, the aspiring writer needs to have lived a little, taken jobs, travelled, had a series of love affairs, shot a man in Reno. How can you write about life if you haven’t even lived it?’

The Panopticon is now ready to pre-order from various well-known bookstores and online retailers and I recommend getting in fast, before the rest of the world catches on…

Joseph Ridgwell, Portobello, December 2011.