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Creative Writing student tipped as one to watch

Posted on 28/02/2012

A novelist on the Creative Writing MA at Royal Holloway, University of London has been chosen by a top High Street book store to feature in its shortlist of promising new authors.

Jenni Fagan beat thousands of other new novelists to feature in the prestigious Waterstones 11 – a list of this year’s most promising young novelists tipped to scoop literary prizes.

Jenni’s novel, Panopticon, will now be promoted in Waterstones stores up and down the country.

Shocked but yet delighted that her novel was chosen, Jenni said: “Waterstones are passionate about discovering and promoting new literature, having their support is an amazing way to celebrate The Panopticon's journey into publication.”

Described as “everything one could hope for in a debut novel”, it tells the tale of fifteen-year-old Anais Hendricks who finds herself in the back of a police car, headed for The Panopticon, a home for chronic young offenders. Anais is unable to remember the events that led her there, but across town a policewoman lies in a coma and there is blood on her school uniform.

Jenni explains that the inspiration for Panopticon came from many sources but that it was influenced by Michel Foucault and his social theory.

“The Panopticon as a building is a great metaphor for the modern world we live in,” she explained.  “We all observe each other constantly, through social media, at work, at home, while simultaneously being constantly observed by CCTV.”

Jenni came from a care background and explained that she wanted to create a character that is neither clichéd, nor stereotyped.

“Children in the local authority care system are consistently given excessively negative messages about who they are and what they are, especially young offenders. I began to see this process as dehumanising,” she said.

“Making any vulnerable group into a homogenous subaltern — must serve some purpose for society or why would it happen? I wanted to have a female heroine who is moral, yet violent. Someone who is a product of her environment but who is also fiercely intelligent and engaged in the world.”

Panopticon by Jenni Fagan is due to be published by Random House in May. 


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