Category: Fagan Jenni

BBC National Short Story Award 2017: ‘The Waken’ by Jenni Fagan 

This post is part of a series on the 2017 BBC National Short Story Award. 

It fascinates me how vastly different styles of writing can draw me in equally effectively. Will Eaves’s piece was fragmented and formal; Jenni Fagan’s is rolling, with a gossamer touch. Both embody what they want to tell superbly.

We join Fagan’s protagonist, Jessie, as she makes precautions to ensure that her newly-deceased father’s soul will not return to the house. This is an old tradition carried on into the present day; contemporary details puncture the narrative, destabilising its folktale-like tone.

All the women on Jessie’s Hebridean island, except her, became selkies at the age of twelve; but she is about to undergo a transformation of her own. None of this feels in any way out of place: Fagan maintains that measured tone, and the story unfurls as she goes.

Listen to a reading of ‘The Waken’.

Granta Best Young British Novelists 2013: Jenni Fagan

Jenni Fagan‘s debut, The Panopticon has been staring at me from the shelf (what else would it do?) ever since I bought it last year, having heard so many good things about it. So ‘Zephyrs’, Fagan’s novel excerpt from the Granta anthology, is the first thing I’ve read of hers – and it really is superb. A short portrait of a man leaving London as the river levels rise, the piece is written in a dense, fractured prose that makes even quite ordinary things seem hallucinatory (in this I was reminded of Jon McGregor’s work, which is always a pleasure). It ends with a strange image: a woman doing housework, outside, in her sleep. I’m left wanting to know more, and to read more by this writer – perhaps it’s time to stop staring at The Panopticon, and open it instead.

This is part of a series of posts on Granta 123: Best of Young British Novelists 4Click here to read the rest.

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