cover image Break.up: A Novel in Essays

Break.up: A Novel in Essays

Joanna Walsh. Semiotext(e), $16.95 trade paper (272p) ISBN 978-1-63590-014-9

Walsh’s genre-defying novel blends a story of elusive romance with a decidedly intellectual travelogue. Whether she’s working in nonfiction (Hotel) or fiction (Words from the World’s End), Walsh utilizes experimental techniques to expand the boundaries of her narrative. Here, she tells the story of a writer traveling across Europe, staying with friends and acquaintances and following no set itinerary. At the heart of the book is a peculiar romance characterized by distance and absence. Periodically, the narrator addresses this unseen figure: “I love you, still. But I’m out of place everywhere.” And as the narrator goes on her way from London, with stops in cities including Sofia, Nice, and Budapest, she ponders this relationship, a previous marriage, and the very nature of communication. The book’s narrator frequently ruminates on her reading choices, and quotes from the writings of authors such as Sigmund Freud, Virginia Woolf, and Chris Kraus are juxtaposed against Walsh’s prose. That combination turns a familiar-sounding premise into something much grander—a way to find the unusual in the quotidian. (May)