I got this book from the library because the New Yorker described it as an “extraordinary début novel” that “records a young woman’s thoughts as she moves through a single day,” and further said this: “By arranging text in unconventional ways, Watson conveys the shapes and the rhythms of thought, and coheres scraps of consciousness into clear moments of impression, observation, and anxiety.” This is true, but doesn’t give a full sense of just how much anxiety there is in this short book, and doesn’t touch on why. Reading this book, you’re really in the narrator’s head, which turns out to be an uncomfortable place to be. I think the level of discomfort I felt means that the book it’s successful at what it’s trying to do, and I’m glad I read it. That said—

… and you should stop reading now if you don’t want to know about something that isn’t revealed in its entirety immediately—I do wish I’d known going into it that the narrator’s boss raped her, and that the narrator’s attempts to deal with the trauma of that rape (as well as the trauma of workplace sexual harassment more generally) are a major part of the story.

I do like the form of this book, the way it proceeds through a single day from when the narrator wakes to when she falls asleep—the way we see her commute, her workday, all the little moments and thoughts and actions. I like the way the simultaneity of experience is captured—how when the narrator is reading a book on the train on her way to work, we get a snippet of what she’s reading, and her thoughts on it, and the distractions making their way into her experience of reading—the announcement of the next stop on the train, or how she finds herself thinking about sex with her boyfriend. I like the narrator’s walk from the train to work—how she passes a “PRET,” then a “SECOND PRET” then “ANOTHER PRET” within the course of a few pages (30-32). I like how the start of her workday is captured: an awkward exchange with a colleague about tea, then: “google chrome, double click” then “outlook, double click” (40). I like how as the workday progresses we get snippets of email subject lines and Twitter threads and a TripAdvisor review; I like how the text captures the way the narrator switches from one task to the next, and how she watches the minutes pass as it gets closer and closer to 6 pm. And I like the back and forth between the narrator and her boyfriend, in a pub after work, after they’ve ducked out of a poetry reading—the way the narrative captures the sweetness and connection between them, even as it also captures the way that the narrator is keeping this huge secret from him and fretting about if and when and how she’s going to tell it. “I cannot get through the day, if everything brings up something else,” she thinks, at one point, earlier (103). Everything does bring up something else, though, and she gets through the day regardless.

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