Three Rooms

Jo Hamya. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $25 (208p) ISBN 978-0-358-57209-1

Hamya’s cerebral debut explores a young British woman’s identity formation while her country is besieged by inequality, disconnection, and political instability. In the fall of 2018, the unnamed narrator, a millennial woman of color, has just moved into student accommodations at Oxford for a temporary research assistant position. Trying to find her footing, she spends most of her time online, contemplating how others manage their online personae, such as a student named Ghislane, whose father recorded a hit “faux-folk” song of the same name in the 1990s (“Ghislane was not as famous as her father,” the narrator notes, perusing her Instagram profile, “but there were the beginnings of some distinction there”). Later, the narrator moves to London and scrapes by while working yet another temporary job at a society magazine with a pitiful salary. As Brexit divides the nation, she reflects on the changing cultural climate and the purposelessness of her toils: “When did it become ridiculous to think that a stable economy and a fair housing market were reasonable expectations?” In precise prose, Hamya captures the disillusionment and despair plaguing her protagonist. This perceptive debut will delight fans of Rachel Cusk. Agent: Harriet Moore, David Higham Assoc. (Aug.)