Farrar. Jun. 2024. 208p. ISBN 9780374613013. $26. F
DEBUT Brown’s fascinating Joycean debut is a curious and poetic day-in-the-life meditation on meaning and metaphor. In simple and contemplative prose that is almost poetry, Brown ponders the mundane and the metaphorical, the literary and the liminal, the urges of the flesh and the appetites of the intellect. The narrative is told through the voice of a young university student named Annabell who is anxiously intent on writing about Shakespeare’s sonnets but unable to get started. The smell of chamomile tea hovers in her small room, snow hovers outside her window, and a need to empty her bladder hovers in the back of her head as she sits at her desk. There are a few phone calls and some fantasies about sex with her “boyfriend,” but the truth is Brown’s novel is at its best and most delicious when it seems to be about almost nothing at all; in those moments, she seizes something rarely captured in literature—a glimpse of the mind hovering on the edge of inspiration.
VERDICT Alive with the spark of a fresh voice discovering itself, Brown’s novel is written with astonishing grace and curiosity. This is a work to be compared with Marilynne Robinson’s beautiful and boundless Housekeeping, and a writer to be watched with great expectations.
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