30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars
A dazzling first novel, "The Panopticon" by Jenni Fagan, 11 May 2012
I don't write reviews so this will be a bit chit, but here goes.
Comparison with Trainspotting is inevitable, but for me The Panopticon is far better written, far more mature, there's so much more creativity and skill displayed; the story is coherent, the characters believeable, no cardboard cutouts here.
The Panopticon deals with drug abuse, prostitution, vandalism, assault, murder, rape, and the whole care system, but they aren't thrust in your face just for cheap shocks, it's the background reality to the story. It is shocking at times, but... oh, I can't describe this well. It shocks you as part of a finely crafted story, not wild flashes of emotion as someone tries to push your buttons. Jenni Fagan takes care of you as a reader, holds your hand through the grim bits, entertains you, explains exactly enough. It's very gripping: I had just started on chapter 34, only a thin wedge of paper left in the book, and I was scared, very scared - how was it going to end? It's also funny, and thrilling, and sad - I'm definitely getting softer as I age, but I was crying at one point, just one little line tipped me over; I stopped reading and folded my arms tight around me.
The main character is a cool and scary delight. Anais is as delicate and fragile as a six inch shard of broken mirror. Damaged but functional, rainbow diamonds sparkle off her razor edges. I'd trust her with my life - but probably not my car or wallet. I was sometimes cheering for her, sometimes wanting to advise her or tell her to slow down, sometimes frightened for her, sometimes of her. Ultimately in awe of her courage.
I've read The Panopticon quickly, I'll now read it slowly, savouring the language. I'll probably keep re-reading it until Jenni Fagan's next book comes out. This is a dazzling first novel, I really, really hope there's more to come.