Speed reading - debut novels

In An Experiment in Leisure (Chatto & Windus) Anna Glendenning’s unanchored protagonist is another disillusioned Oxbridge graduate dealing with an uncertain future. Grace hated her time at university, where she was mocked for her northern accent. After the death of her dad, she travels between London, Newcastle and Leeds, restless, trying to make sense of herself, her choices and desires. Grace drifts between jobs and relationships and spends her expensive counselling sessions apologising for every thought. A deft exploration of millennial angst.


Natasha Brown’s impressive novella Assembly (Hamish Hamilton) reflects on race and class in Britain today. The unnamed narrator is a Black British Oxbridge graduate with a high-powered job in finance and a white boyfriend whose parents “tolerate” her. When she is diagnosed with cancer, she re- evaluates her life and makes a difficult choice. Through a series of vignettes, Brown reveals the insidious racism navigated by her character. She is at the “crescendo” of her career but is constantly reminded of quotas, diversity and her good fortune.

In her debut novel, Animal (Bloomsbury Circus), Lisa Taddeo expands on the themes of female desire she explored in her non-fiction work Three Women. Joan describes herself as depraved. She lurches between affairs with two married men until one implodes in violence. Joan leaves New York for LA to find a yoga teacher called Alice whose love she craves and fears. There she exacts a terrible revenge. She traces her immorality back to the damage inflicted by her parents, in particular her father’s betrayal, and her early sexualisation. Audacious, but uneven.

Originally published by The Tablet