Friday 20 August 2021

Book Review: The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan

The Panopticon The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The narrator of this story is 15 yrs old Anais, in the care system. Now too old for adoption, she has spent her life going too and fro from pillar to post, from foster parent to foster parent, from social worker to social worker, from care home to care home, from name to name. The author, Jenni Fagan, has created a class character of Scottish grime literature, often compared to Irvine Welsh Trainspotting's Renton, and gives her a brilliantly authentic voice, full of curses, but it is also a vehicle for her dreams, dreams of Paris, a new life where she is in control not the system, not the abusers. In the meantime that's where she is and she takes the reader on a tour of that life, her relationships with others in the children's unit, the documentaries she watches on the unit's TV, her love for Frieda Kahlo, in a rollicking first person narrative voice. We experience the highs and the lows, the loves and the hates, the friendships and the anything-but-friendly-ships. ****SPOILER ALERT **** the voice is gently Scots, full of curses, expletives abound throughout, as does violence as the book mounts to its horrific events which precede what we hope is the resurrection and redefinition of Anais as Frances.

Note: "The panopticon is a disciplinary concept brought to life in the form of a central observation tower placed within a circle of prison cells" developed by philospher Jermey Bentham

Not sure why I have not read anything by this author before, she is Scottish after all, so I should have. This was her debut novel in 2012, the author having spent much of her own childhood in the care system and one hopes that not too much of this is autobiographical. Thoroughly riveting. I listened to the Audio version narrated by Gayle Madine.

I've now got her most recent Luckenbooth to read.

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