In Review

Novel of the week: Little Scratch by Rebecca Watson

Rebecca Watson’s “astonishing” and experimentative debut follows a young journalist dealing with a hidden trauma

This “astonishing debut” charts a day in the life of a young female journalist who works in a London newsroom, said Zoë Apostolides in the FT. She gets up and goes to work – where she performs various mundane tasks – and then cycles off for an evening out with her boyfriend. But while outwardly “an ordinary person”, the narrator’s closely recounted thoughts reveal that she is wrestling with a “hidden trauma” – one she can barely acknowledge to herself, let alone disclose to others: her “compulsive scratching”, for instance, means repeated trips to the toilet. 

Watson’s writing is “daringly disrupted”, said Alex Clark in The Guardian. With “sudden shifts in the typography” and “staccato repetitions and bracketed text”, Little Scratch often resembles poetry more than prose. Such experimentation won’t be to everyone’s taste, but the effort is well worth it. This is an “extremely perceptive” – and often surprisingly funny – novel about “power and agency in the modern workplace”, and the difficulties of communicating meaningfully in a world in which many seem to have “too much to say”.

Faber 224pp £12.99; The Week Bookshop £9.99

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