From the Booker-shortlisted author of Umbrella, a brilliant portrait of motherhood, sublimated desire, and the reverberations of the Cold War in a novel that investigates and reimagines the life of the author’s mother.
by Will Self
Grove Press, September 2024
Will Self is one of the most inimitable contemporary writers in the English language, dubbed “the most daring and delightful novelist of his generation” (Guardian). His work has been shortlisted for awards including the Booker Prize and the Whitbread Award for Novel of the Year, and selected for best of the year lists, including those of the Times, Guardian, Independent and Financial Times. He also earns rapturous reviews, with his last novel, Phone, hailed as “one of the most significant literary works of our century” (New Statesman). Following a blistering personal account of addiction in his memoir Will, Self turns his forensic eye to the life of his own equally troubled mother, Elaine, in this brilliantly conceived new novel.
Standing by the mailbox outside 1100 Hemlock Street in Ithaca, New York, Elaine thinks of her child and husband, an Ivy League academic and former Communist Party member, inside her house and wonders: is this . . . it? As she begins to push back against the strictures of her life in 1950s America, she undertakes a disastrous affair that ends her marriage and upends her life.
Based on the intimate diaries Self’s mother kept for over forty years, ELAINE is a writer’s attempt to reach the almost unimaginable realm of a parent’s interior life prior to his own existence. Perhaps the first work of auto-oedipal fiction, ELAINE shows Will Self working in an exciting new dimension, utilizing his stylistic talents to tremendous effect.
Will Self is the author of many novels and books of nonfiction, including Great Apes; How the Dead Live, which was shortlisted for the Whitbread Novel of the Year; The Butt, winner of the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Fiction; Umbrella, which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize; Shark; Phone; the memoir Will; and the essay collection Why Read. He lives in South London.