Pa`nop´ti`con ( noun). A circular prison with cells so constructed that the prisoners can be observed at all times. [Greek panoptos 'seen by all']
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.
Looking up at the watchtower that looms over the residents, Anais knows her fate: she is part of an experiment, she always was, it's a given, a liberty - a fact. And the experiment is closing in.
In language dazzling, energetic and pure, The Panopticon introduces us to a heartbreaking young heroine and an incredibly assured and outstanding new voice in fiction.
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It’s in the Margaret Attwood/The Handmaid’s Tale vein – very literary and suspenseful…Set in an altered reality – one that feels familiar and yet deeply unfamiliar, that embodies some of the dailiness of life, and yet slowly reveals itself to be a very different, much more sinister place. -
Each page sparkles with the ebullient and sinister magic of great storytelling ... An utterly magnificent achievement. - Irvine Welsh
Not just uncompromising and courageous. I think it's one of the most cunning and spirited novels I've read for years... An intelligent and deeply literary novel. -
Written with great verve and brio ... An astonishing debut, I have a feeling that Fagan is a name we will hear more of. -
The 15-year-old heroine and narrator, has a rough, raw, joyous voice that leaps right off the page and grabs you by the throat…This punkish young philosopher is struggling with a terrible past, while battling sinister social workers…The glorious Anais is unforgettable. - The Times
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. ... As a debut, The Panopticon does everything it should. It announces a major new star in the firmament. - Scotsman
Jenni Fagan is the real thing, and The Panopticon is a real treat: maturely alive to the pains of maturing, and cleverly amused as well as appalled by what it finds in the world. - Andrew Motion
An indictment of the care system, this dazzling and distinctive novel has at its heart an unstoppable heroine…Fagan’s prose is fierce, funny and brilliant at capturing her heroine’s sparky smartness and vulnerability…Emotionally explosive. - Marie Claire
Ferocious and devastating, The Panopticon sounds a battle-cry on behalf of the abandoned, the battered, and the betrayed. To call it a good novel is not good enough: this is an important novel, a book with a conscience, a passionate challenge to the powers-that-be. Jenni Fagan smashes every possible euphemism for adolescent intimacy and adolescent violence, and she does it with tenderness and even humour. Hats off to Jenni Fagan! I will be recommending this book to everyone I know. - Eleanor Catton, author of The Rehearsal
Reminiscent of Girl, Interrupted…The novel is as bold, shocking and intelligent as its central character…The institutional details (magnolia walls, screwed-down chairs) anchor The Panopticon in realism, giving it a greater bite. Much of Anais’ life is the stuff of tabloid shock stories and The Panopticon’s strength lies in giving you an insight into the lonely, damaged girl behind the headlines…This week’s winner. - Stylist
[a] confident and deftly wrought debut…[Anais’] voice is compellingly realised. - Financial Times
Fagan's writing is taut and controlled and the dialogue crackles. - The Herald
[The narrator] is engagingly drawn by Fagan, who has created a character possessed of intellectual curiosity and individual quirks…Written with great verve…Fagan has a clear voice, an unflinching feel for the complexity of the teenage mindset, and an awareness of the burden we impose on children…What’s intriguing here – particularly in a Scottish fiction landscape that can display too much of the plodding everyday – is her effort to lift the story of teen misadventure into a heightened realm of intellectual aspiration and quasi-sci-fi notions of sinister social change. - Scotland on Sunday
Fagan is writing about important stuff: the losers, the lonely, most of them women…[Anais] maintains a cool, smart, pretty, witty and wise persona. - Guardian
one of the most revelatory debut novels from a Scottish author in some time. - The Herald
punchy and startlingly accomplished - Financial Times
Fagan’s writing is astonishing... On the strength of this book, Fagan more than deserves her place on the recent Granta list of young British novelists. She’s a major talent whose work should be widely recognised. The Panopticon is a weird, gorgeous, utterly unplaceable work of fiction that’s hilarious, uplifting, dirty and real. I fell in love with it from the first page and then struggled for weeks to put my feelings about it into words. - The Bookbag
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
this book is as warm as it is bone-chilling… This amazing book manages to be both a condemnation of all that is wrong in our society and the care system in particular, and a wonderful testament to a person’s will to live a better life, all at the same time. It is no surprise that Jenni Fagan was included in Granta’s list of twenty most promising British authors under the age of 40. If she can bring her clear voice and wonderful storytelling skills to future books, Jenni Fagan is one writer we will be hearing a lot more about in years to come. - Nudgemenow
Jenni Fagan was born in Livingston, Scotland, and lives in Edinburgh. She graduated from Greenwich University with the highest possible mark for a student of Creative Writing, 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, the Desmond Elliott Prize and the James Tait Black Prize. Jenni works as a writer in residence, in hospitals and prisons. The Panopticon is her first novel.