Jenni Fagan’s The Panopticon (Heinemann) is not just uncompromising and courageous, I think it’s one of the most cunning and spirited novels I’ve read for years. The story of Anais, a fifteen-year-old girl blasting her way through the care-home system while the system in turn blasts her away to nothing, looks on the surface to be work of a recognizable sort, the post-Dickensian moral realism/fabulism associated with writers like Irvine Welsh. But Fagan’s narrative talent is really more reminiscent of early Camus and that this novel is a debut is near unbelievable. Tough and calm, electrifying and intent, it is an intelligent and deeply literary novel which deals its hope and hopelessness simultaneously with a humaneness, both urgent and timeless, rooted in real narrative subtlety.
It is the most assured and intriguing first novel by a Scottish writer that I have read in a decade, a book which is lithely and poetically written, politically and morally brave and simply unforgettable. As a debut, The Panopticon does everything it should. It announces a major new star in the firmament.
The term ‘stunning debut novel’ doesn’t even begin to cover The Panopticon. Each pages sparkles with the ebullient and sinister magic of great storytelling, culminating in the same impact as the first books of Kelman, Gray and Warner. An utterly magnificent achievement.
Ferocious and devastating, The Panopticon sounds a battle-cry on behalf of the abandoned, the battered, and the betrayed. To call it a good novel is not good enough: this is an important novel, a book with a conscience, a passionate challenge to the powers-that-be. Jenni Fagan smashes every possible euphemism for adolescent intimacy and adolescent violence, and she does it with tenderness and even humour. Hats off to Jenni Fagan! I will be recommending this book to everyone I know.’
WE LOVE THIS BOOK
The Panopticon is a sinister, powerful novel that stays with you long after the final chapters. Fagan gently draws out the childish underside to her savage heroine in this challenging but vitally important debut novel.
‘Dazzling and distinctive, Jenni_Fagan’ prose is fierce, funny and brilliant.’
Selected for Marie Claire’s This Months Best Books.
HOUSE OF BETTY
To say that I couldn’t put this fantastic gem down is a cliche and absolutely true. Each and every character was so uniquely crafted, yet eerily similar to kids I met, growing up that they added depth to this brazen and raw reality like I have never read before. Rarely am I so deeply immersed in another’s life and pain and love that I care desperately about their success and happiness. This novel gave me all of that.
‘Jenni Fagan is the real thing, and The Panopticon is a real treat: maturely alive to the pains of maturing, and cleverly amused as well as appalled by what it finds in the world.’
Won Book of the Month, in their book war. Also announced as a Cult Book of 2012.
‘The novel is as bold, shocking and intelligent as its central character.’
Sparingly and cleverly written, with poetic passages, The Panopticon is a yarn that makes one hungry for more from the same author.
Controversial, puzzling, and unforgettable.
“This punkish young philosopher is struggling with a terrible past, while battling sinister social workers. Though this will appeal to teenagers, the language and ideas are wholly adult, and the glorious Anais is unforgettable.“
FOR BOOKS SAKE 5*
Anais Hendricks, a fierce and irrepressible narrator with a vivid and original voice, like going on a joyride with Irvine Welsh‘s teenage sister while off your face on amphetamines. The Panopticon is as memorable and exhilarating as its narrator.
I’m reminded of “Nausea” and “L’Etranger” more than anything. But the spirit of Jenni’s novel, of her protagonist, struck me as more victorious than either Camus or Sartre’s novels. Anais doesn’t care that there’s no God or that she feels a bit sick; she just wants a train ticket out of Scotland, rather than a tangible point to it all. The world still excites her. “The Panopticon” treads just right the fine line between impassioned anarchy and elegant control. Jenni Fagan is not only victoriously, wickedly honest, but also a brilliant stylist. Cathartic and nurturing, incredibly funny and victoriously escapist, there is really no doubt about it – “Panopticon” is a triumph – and an anarchic, endearing one at that.
Fagan is writing about important stuff: the losers, the lonely, most of them women. Yet she (Anais Hendricks) maintains a cool, smart, pretty, witty and wise persona. Her salvation is a given.
A novel that leaves me ignoring everything I’m meant to be doing, in favour of compulsively reading on, is a rare treat; The Panopticon is one of those novels.
Fagan’s writing is taut and controlled and the dialogue crackles.
Irvine Welsh, Stuart Kelly & me all saying Jenni Fagan’s The Panopticon is 2012′s best debut novel. Do u want us to hand deliver it or wot? Should be up for the Guardian First Book award.