You by Joanna Briscoe - review by Olivia Laing

Olivia Laing

Unkempt Eden

You

By

Bloomsbury 357pp £11.99 order from our bookshop
 

The setting of Joanna Briscoe’s third novel, You, is a wild and defiantly unacademic school in the West Country that resembles the progressive Dartington Hall in both mores and architecture. As a girl in the 1970s Cecilia was forced to attend it. Now a successful writer, she has returned to her childhood home to try to make sense of her teenage years, and in particular her relationship with Mr Dahl, the austere English teacher who seemed to be its saving grace. 

Austerity appeals to the young Cecilia. Her parents are middle-class hippies in search of a particularly mucky, messy version of the good life. They live in a sprawling house on Dartmoor, populated by a succession of grubby, ineffectual lodgers who pay rent ‘in inexpert dry-stone walling’ and linger

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