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Recommended Reading

the-panopticonThe Panopticon

Jenni Fagan

Hogarth, New York

HC 282 pp, $24.00

  

This arresting debut novel by Jenni Fagan compares well with David Mitchell’s Black Swan Green. The comparison is unavoidable on a couple of fronts. Both are character driven novels featuring adolescents in the UK. Mitchell’s Jason going from innocence to experience starting out at 13, while Fagan’s almost 16 going on 30 Anais goes from very mean and nasty experience to the hope of regained innocence. Mitchell was named one of Granta’s best of Young British Novelists in 2003, and Fagan in 2013.

The Panopticon, like Black Swan Green makes excellent use of dialogue, slang, and dialect, though Fagan’s protagonist is more clearly built on harsh incident, from the death of her mother and her odyssey through care moving 51 times before reaching the ominous panopticon (a circular prison with cells so constructed that the prisoners can be observed at all times).

My most recent novel is usually the one I like best when compared to others, and even rummaging around in Black Swan Green again I am very excited about the Panopticon, partly because to be honest, it kept me turning the pages in my current condition, waiting for my second hip replacement.

I do have one question, is there anything similar written by a Canadian? The Americans think they broke trail with Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye but these stories go back at least as far as Dickens and Hardy.  Recommendations anyone? No, Who has seen the wind? doesn’t count though Miriam Toews’ A Complicated Kindness does.

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