The Panopticon

Jenni Fagan

The Panopticon

Anais Hendricks, fifteen, is in the back of a police car, headed for the Panopticon, a home for chronic young offenders.She can't remember the events that led her here, but across town a policewoman lies in a coma and there is blood on Anais's school uniform. Smart, funny and fierce, Anais is a counter-culture outlaw, a bohemian philosopher in sailor shorts and a pillbox hat. She is also a child who has been let down, or worse, by just about every adult she has ever met. The residents of the Panopticon form intense bonds, heightened by their place on the periphery, and Anais finds herself part of an ad hoc family there. Much more suspicious are the social workers, especially Helen, who is about to leave her job for an elephant sanctuary in India but is determined to force Anais to confront the circumstances of her birth before she goes. 3.8 out of 5 based on 7 reviews
The Panopticon

Omniscore:

Classification Fiction
Genre General Fiction
Format Hardcover
Pages 336
RRP
Date of Publication May 2012
ISBN 978-0434021772
Publisher William Heinemann
 

Anais Hendricks, fifteen, is in the back of a police car, headed for the Panopticon, a home for chronic young offenders.She can't remember the events that led her here, but across town a policewoman lies in a coma and there is blood on Anais's school uniform. Smart, funny and fierce, Anais is a counter-culture outlaw, a bohemian philosopher in sailor shorts and a pillbox hat. She is also a child who has been let down, or worse, by just about every adult she has ever met. The residents of the Panopticon form intense bonds, heightened by their place on the periphery, and Anais finds herself part of an ad hoc family there. Much more suspicious are the social workers, especially Helen, who is about to leave her job for an elephant sanctuary in India but is determined to force Anais to confront the circumstances of her birth before she goes.

Reviews

The Scotsman

Stuart Kelly

It is the most assured and intriguing first novel by a Scottish writer that I have read in a decade, a book which is lithely and poetically written, politically and morally brave and simply unforgettable. To give some indication of the maturity of this novel, I should confess that initially I had one or two queries about certain decisions about style and plotting; which, on reflection, I increasingly saw as strengths – and very meaningful strengths – rather than weaknesses.

12/05/2012

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The Financial Times

James Urquhart

Anais’s fierce if warped honesty challenges superficial perceptions of criminal responsibility. And the revelation of how Anais sees herself gives a sharp twist to a tale that is punchy and startlingly accomplished.

26/04/2012

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The Times

Kate Saunders

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.

05/05/2012

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The Scotsman

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The narrative dynamism implied by the high concept of an inescapable, all-seeing prison doesn’t come through in the text. Without much of a plot goal, barring Anais’ escape or otherwise from the possibly fabricated charge of assault on a police officer, the story is mostly vignettes of youthful sex-and-drugs depravity, written with great verve but a touch on the familiar side.

06/05/2012

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The Guardian

Lucy Ellmann

Fagan is writing about important stuff: the losers, the lonely, most of them women. And she's good on Sumo Baby Championships on TV, and masturbation ("you cannae trust folk that dinnae wank"): life, in other words. The only trouble is, like many a prison memoir, it's all couched in a solipsistic present-tense first-person monologue. Dotted with intermittent touches of Lothian-speak, the voice sometimes falters, becoming too knowing and pedantic, or drifts into social work diagnoses, statistics, newspaper stories and other crude forms of explanation that drain the life out the story.

18/05/2012

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The Financial Times

David Evans

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: though Anais displays a somewhat implausible precocity – she delivers pithy witticisms on Frida Kahlo and pre-Raphaelite fashion – her voice is compellingly realised.

12/05/2012

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The Guardian

Lucy Ellman

Fagan is writing about important stuff: the losers, the lonely, most of them women. Dotted with intermittent touches of Lothian-speak, the voice sometimes falters, becoming too knowing and pedantic, or drifts into social-work diagnoses, statistics, newspaper stories and other crude forms of explanation that drain the life out the story. Irritatingly, Anais also likes to say "Mental note" and "Fact" – like a misbegotten Bridget Jones.

26/04/2013

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