Jenni Fagan: Life Inspiring Art

courtesy cleveland.com
courtesy cleveland.com

Based on the press info included in my review copy of Jenni Fagan’s debut novel, The Panopticon, I basically assumed that the novel was autobiography in the guise of fiction. Fagan grew up in the Scottish social care system; so to does her narrator, Anais. Fagan has had four different legal names; Anais, at least three, by my last count. But Fagan assured me in her interview that this book is not her story, and I believe her for two reasons: 1.) She told me she did write her autobiography, and that she’ll publish it when she’s old, and 2.) The voice of her narrator sounded so wholly different than the woman with whom I was speaking. Fagan spoke quite convincingly of Anais’s motives, sure, and it was obvious that Fagan’s understanding of her narrator was complete–but she also spoke of her from a distance, and without any self-consciousness, and with the delicate, measured talk that so often spills from the mouths of skilled writers when asked about their characters and all it takes to wrangle them. Anais’s voice got into Jenni’s head, and into mine as well.

The Kirkus Reviews feature is up here, and find Jenni’s blog here.