The Last Sane Woman

Hannah Regel

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Verso Books
2 July 2024
ISBN: 9781804295373
Paperback
240 pages

From the publisher

A beguiling debut novel about friendship and failure.

Nicola Long is a few years out of a fine arts degree, listless and unenthusiastically employed in London. She begins to spend her hours at a small underfunded archive dedicated to women’s art. There she discovers one side of a correspondence beginning in 1976 and spanning a dozen years, written from one woman – a ceramics graduate, uncannily like Nicola – to a friend living a contrasting and conventionally moored life. As Nicola reads on, an acute sense of affinity turns into obsession.

She abandons one job after another to make time for the archive. The litany of coincidences in the letters becomes uncanny, and Nicola’s feeling of ownership begets a growing dread: should she be afraid of where these letters are leading?

“Disquieting and gorgeous, The Last Sane Woman plucks images from the world with the claustrophobic pleasure of picking a scab. It reaches deep into the negative spaces of failure and precarity, and from these resources assembles something caustic, elegant, elusive and foreboding. It’s also funny, with an offbeat, sly lightness that comes from knowing exactly how high the odds are stacked against you. I was hooked by the conversation between Regel’s protagonists, looping across generations to give voice to the pains of making and the shameful pleasures of destruction.”—Daisy LaFarge, author of Life without Air and Paul

“The Last Sane Woman is a brilliant, slyly funny, and acutely observed meditation on the process both of the making of objects and of one’s own life. Regel’s prose is gorgeous and deftly rendered on every page.”—Sophie Mackintosh, author of The Water Cure