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Jenni Fagan debuts with the haunting, remarkable novel, The Panopticon

Introducing a heartbreaking young heroine and an incredibly assured and outstanding new voice in fiction

Jenni Fagan debuts with the haunting, remarkable novel, The Panopticon

The Panopticon

Jenni Fagan
  • Imprint: Hogarth
  • On sale: July 23, 2013
  • Price: $22.00
  • Pages: 304
  • ISBN: 9780385347860
Contact: Rachel Rokicki

Praise for The Panopticon

“Told in Anais’ raw voice, Fagan’s novel peers into the world inhabited by forgotten children, and, in Anais, gives us a heartbreakingly intelligent and sensitive heroine wrapped in an impossibly impenetrable exterior. Readers won’t be able to tear themselves away from this transcendent debut.” —Booklist, starred review

“Anais’s ongoing internal dialog, her periodic reimagining of her life and situation, is enthralling…James Kelman’s How Late It Was, How Late meets Ken Kesey’s One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Not to be missed.” —Library Journal, starred review

“Dark and disturbing but also exciting and moving, thanks to a memorable heroine and vividly atmospheric prose…Fagan [paints] her battered characters’ fierce loyalty to each other with such conviction and surprising tenderness.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Anais’s story is one of abandonment, loss, and redemption, well suited for a paranoid age in which society finds itself constantly under the microscope.” —Publishers Weekly

“In the Margaret Atwood/The Handmaid’s Tale vein—very literary and suspenseful. I like books set in an altered reality—one that feels familiar and yet also deeply unfamiliar, that embodies some of the dailiness of life, and yet slowly reveals itself to be a very different, much more sinister place.” —Gillian Flynn, author of Gone Girl

The Panopticon is an exquisite first novel—Jenni Fagan has created a dark, disturbing, yet ultimately hopeful portrait of a young woman growing up alone in the Scottish foster care system.  To say it is haunting is an understatement–I kept wanting to set a place for Anais at the table with the rest of my children.” —Vanessa Diffenbaugh, author of The Language of Flowers

“Jenni Fagan has created a high-resolution portrait of a throwaway kid. Fifteen-year-old Anais, born in a mental ward, tumbled through the social work system, violated and violent, high on whatever, each decision she makes is a jaunty wave as she sails past the next point of no return. This is a contemporary tragedy of the highest order.” —Carol Anshaw, New York Times bestselling author of Carry the One

Jenni Fagan’s dazzling debut novel The Panopticon (Hogarth; July 23, 2013) is the unforgettable story of a young girl’s will to survive. Upon its recent release in the UK, it mesmerized readers and critics and was shortlisted for The Kitschies Award and elected as one of the best worldwide debuts by Waterstones. The Times Literary Supplement and The Scotsman named The Panopticon as one of the best books of 2012.

The origins of this novel stem from Fagan’s own upbringing as she grew up in the Scottish foster care system, shifting from home to home throughout her childhood. After leaving foster care as a teenager she began to study script writing and got a degree in Creative Writing. With unique insights into a care system that most can’t comprehend, Fagan felt compelled to create a novel that reflected her experiences. The Panopticon is a novel about autonomy, and it explores whether it is possible for any individual to reclaim their life, identity and future —from a system that imposes very specific beliefs upon them.

As the novel opens, we meet Anais Hendricks, a few months shy of her sixteenth birthday.  Anais sits in the back of a police car in Midlothian, Scotland, headed for the Panopticon, a home for chronic young offenders. She can’t remember the events that led her there, but across town a policewoman lies in a coma and there is blood on Anais’s school uniform.

Put in foster care at birth, Anais was moved through twenty-three placements before the age of seven.  Along the way, she endured unspeakable hardships and abuse, and has been let down, or worse, by almost every adult she encounters. And yet, despite the parade of horrors visited upon her early life, Anais greets the world with a witty, blunt, and endlessly entertaining voice.  In the Panopticon, Anais fears that the system that has turned its back on her will beat her down and ultimately break her spirit.  Yet, she also finds in the other residents an ad hoc family—Isla, Shona, Tash, and Dylan—and begins to make her first halting steps toward friendships, taking charge of her own fate and discovering the depth of her own strength.

Bold and inventive, The Panopticon is an affecting, powerful book that explores what it means to exist on the periphery, to live without a safety net in an ill equipped system.  Fagan will leave you thinking about Anais and the lives of the people she touches long after you’ve read the final page. 

About the Author

Jenni Fagan was born in Livingston, Scotland. She graduated from Greenwich University and won a scholarship to the Royal Holloway MFA. A published poet, she has won awards from Arts Council England, Dewar Arts and Scottish Screen among others. She has twice been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and was shortlisted for the Dundee International Book Prize.  She is currently the new Writer in Residence at Edinburgh University. The Panopticon is her first novel.

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