“Dept. of Speculation” by Jenny Offill (2014)

I have to firstly acknowledge how much I responded emotionally to this book, for it was something that I was not expecting. It is also unlike any novel I have ever read – and reading novels is what I do for a living. The story is more than domestic – it is intimate: small snapshots of a mind, the kind of digressions usually unseen in any work of fiction are the driving force of this work. Linearity sometimes is too expected, plot can overtake a story and emotional resonance is lost (the opposite is also true, all style and no content doesn’t always work).

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Jenny Offill capably managed to let us into a mind which keeps changing itself, adapts to each shift life throws at it, seeks… what? Intimacy? Help? Companionship? Purpose. The reader never even learns the name of its heartbreaking and deeply funny protagonist. We know her as the wife. She has a husband and one daughter, eventually a dog. I identified with the style – as if I were reading a collection of flash cards on which were written fleeting thoughts, the kinds you have in the shower, after waking up from a particularly exhausting night of dreaming, after having spent too much time obsessing over something that anyone else would deem insignificant. To say that I loved this book is a bit of an understatement. It was a surprise, and one that will stick with me longer than I expected it to.

jenny
Jenny Offill
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