This first novel by a new Polish author is a powerful study of adolescence, which interweaves acute character observation with the dazzlingly surreal. The 15-year-old narrator describes how she is befriended by two very different girls at her new school in turn; and how these girls inspire, confuse, and ultimately betray her.
Marysia Kawczak, growing up in the grey, flat lands of rural Poland, feels she is destined to become, like her mother, ‘a fifteen-stone lump of fat with varicose veins.’ But at fifteen years old she moves with her family to the nearest industrial town, where two passionate friendships explode her assumptions and fill her world with colour and confusion. From Kasia she learns about music, inspiration and blasphemy. From Ewa she absorbs the temptations of the flesh. But when she discovers her adored friends are in cahoots against her, cruelly dubbing her ‘Miss Nobody’, she feels horribly betrayed, and a perfectly ordinary loss of innocence turns into tragedy.
’This is an extraordinary debut. In the best European tradition, it grapples with the big themes – good, evil, suffering and God – embedding them in a narrative that’s also unusually gripping…..The impact of the novel resonates on a deep, primeval level. Recounted in strong, understated prose and beautifully translated, it is the strangest, most troubling reworking of the Faust legend that I’ve read for a long time.’ Christina Patterson, Observer