The Wellcome Trust Book Prize
'As unexpectedly beguiling as it is affecting.' Daily Mail
Since his award-winning debut collection of stories, Last Days of the Dog-Men, Brad Watson's work has been as melancholy, witty, strange, and lovely as any in America. Inspired by the true story of his own great-aunt, he explores the life of Miss Jane Chisolm, born in rural, early-twentieth-century Mississippi with a genital birth defect that would stand in the way of the central "uses" for a woman in that time and place - namely, sex and marriage.
From the country doctor who adopts Jane to the hard tactile labor of farm life, from the sensual and erotic world of nature around her to the boy who loved but was forced to leave her, the world of Miss Jane Chisolm is anything but barren. Free to satisfy only herself, she mesmerizes those around her, exerting an unearthly fascination that lives beyond her still.
In the media
Miss Jane is courageous, resilient and enquiring; her parents are troubled souls, but loving. That said, Watson doesn’t succumb to sentimentality . . . With the woods and fields of Jane’s rural home seeming to cast a subtle enchantment on her life, hers is a history that is as unexpectedly beguiling as it is affecting.
A bittersweet southern pastoral, the story of a forgotten woman written with unearthly beauty. If Raymond Carver and Flannery O’Connor had a child, it would be Brad Watson.
A. M. Homes, 'Best books of 2016' Guardian
[Watson's] sensuous prose eases its way through vivid, deliberate scenes, rich with profound meaning . . . Convincing, occasionally shocking and often overwhelming . . . The brutality of human existence and its random injustices are among Watson’s themes. But the harshness and candour are countered by interludes of extraordinary beauty . . . It is a novel that acquires immense stature as the narrative settles down into what it is: an extraordinary study of character, not just of Jane but also, more importantly and, perhaps, unexpectedly, of the people around her . . . This proud, gentle novel shimmers with a subtle defiance, a near-physical need to celebrate a woman who lived against the odds.
Eileen Battersby Irish Times
The complexity and drama of Watson's gorgeous work here is life's as well: Sometimes physical realities expand us, sometimes trap; sometimes heroism lies in combating our helplessness, sometimes in accepting it. A writer of profound emotional depths, Watson does not lie to his reader, so neither does his Jane. She never stops longing for a wholeness she may never know, but she is determined that her citizenship in the world, however onerous, be dragged into the light and there be lived without apology or perfection or pity.
New York Times