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The Panopticonby Jenni Fagan
Synopses & Reviews
Pa`nop´ti`con (noun). A circular prison with cells so constructed that the prisoners can be observed at all times. [Greek panoptos 'seen by all']
Anais Hendricks, fifteen, is in the back of a police car. She is headed for the Panopticon, a home for chronic young offenders. She can't remember what’s happened, but across town a policewoman lies in a coma and Anais’s school uniform is covered in blood.
Raised in foster care from birth and moved through twenty-three placements before she even turned seven, Anais has been let down by just about every adult she has ever met. Now a counter-culture outlaw, she knows that she can only rely on herself. And yet despite the parade of horrors visited upon her early life, she greets the world with the witty, fierce insight of a survivor.
Anais finds a sense of belonging among the residents of the Panopticon — they form intense bonds, and she soon becomes part of an ad hoc family. Together, they struggle against the adults that keep them confined. When she looks up at the watchtower that looms over the residents though, Anais knows her fate: she is an anonymous part of an experiment, and she always was. Now it seems that the experiment is closing in.
Named one of the best books of the year by the Times Literary Supplement and the Scotsman, The Panopticon is an astonishingly haunting, remarkable debut novel. In language dazzling, energetic and pure, it introduces us to a heartbreaking young heroine and an incredibly assured and outstanding new voice in fiction.
"If you’re trying to find a novel to engage a determinedly illiterate teenager, give them this one. Anais, the 15-year-old heroine and narrator, has a rough, raw, joyous voice that leaps right off the page and grabs you by the throat….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." The Times
"[A] confident and deftly wrought debut…The Panopticon is an example of what Martin Amis has called the 'voice novel,' the success of which depends on the convincing portrayal of an idiosyncratic narrator. In this Fagan excels….Her voice is compellingly realised. We cheer her on as she rails against abusive boyfriends and apathetic social workers, her defiance rendered in a rich Midlothian brogue." Financial Times
"[The narrator] is engagingly drawn by Fagan, who has created a character possessed of intellectual curiosity and individual quirks….Written with great verve…Fagan has a clear voice, an unflinching feel for the complexity of the teenage mindset, and an awareness of the burden we impose on children….What’s intriguing here — particularly in a Scottish fiction landscape that can display too much of the plodding everyday — is her effort to lift the story of teen misadventure into a heightened realm of intellectual aspiration and quasi-sci-fi notions of sinister social change." Scotland on Sunday
"What Fagan depicts in her debut novel, The Panopticon, is a society in which people don't just fall through the net — there is no net….Fagan is writing about important stuff: the losers, the lonely, most of them women. [Anais] maintains a cool, smart, pretty, witty and wise persona." Guardian
"Reminiscent of Girl, Interrupted….The novel is as bold, shocking and intelligent as its central character…The institutional details (magnolia walls, screwed-down chairs) anchor The Panopticon in realism, giving it a greater bite. Much of Anais’ life is the stuff of tabloid shock stories and The Panopticon’s strength lies in giving you an insight into the lonely, damaged girl behind the headlines….This week’s winner." Stylist
"An indictment of the care system, this dazzling and distinctive novel has at its heart an unstoppable heroine…Fagan’s prose is fierce, funny and brilliant at capturing her heroine’s sparky smartness and vulnerability….Emotionally explosive." Marie Claire
"Best debut novel I've read this year." Irvine Welsh
About the Author
Jenni Fagan was born in Livingston, Scotland. She graduated from Greenwich University and won a scholarship to the Royal Holloway MFA. A published poet, she has won awards from Arts Council England, Dewar Arts and Scottish Screen among others. She has twice been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, was shortlisted for the Dundee International Book Prize, and was named one of Granta's Best of Young British Novelists in 2013. The Panopticon is her first novel.
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