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The Art of the Body

Desmond Elliott Prize, 2020

Hardcover / ISBN-13: 9780349700786

Price: £14.99

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‘A bold, unflinching debut’ GUARDIAN

Brutal, tender, philosophical, visceral, complex and so well written’ EMMA JANE UNSWORTH

Maintaining one person’s dignity comes nearly always at the expense of someone else’s. I have learned this for you.

Janet is caught between care work and caring for herself. Her life revolves around Sean, a talented fine art student, living and working with cerebral palsy. Both Janet and Sean are new to London and far from their families. Both are finding a means of escape through pushing their bodies to the limit.

When Sean is faced with an unexpected and deeply personal tragedy, Janet must let her guard down at last and discover what she’s prepared to fight for.

The Art of the Body is a novel about dignity and intimacy, tenderness and brutality, unafraid to explore uncommon bodies in unusual ways.

‘Raw and powerful’ IMAGE

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This isn't an easy read, but it is raw and powerful . . . An uncompromising look at what it means to be 'able' in life
Beyond describing in vivid detail Sean's disability, Allison uses it to pave new literary ground, making use of unusual figures of speech that allow the reader access to another way of looking at the world . . . The Art of the Body offers the reader a multi-layered exploration of the able and disabled body. Through the experiences of Janet, who shares with us her enthusiasm and disappointment, love and loss, care for others and self-loathing, we discover the possibilities a disabled body offers, which is far from incomplete or needing to be fixed. Allison's talent transforms it all into a tale worth reading
The Northern Review
What a brilliant book! I tore through it. Brutal, tender, philosophical, visceral, complex and so well written. A deft exploration of two entwined lives that is deeply moving without ever being sentimental. The character of Janet is incredible. I have never encountered anyone like her, and yet she was utterly believable. This is one of those books that sneaks under your skin and expands you. Sheer brilliance
Emma Jane Unsworth
[A ] bold, unflinching debut . . . Finely written and thoughtfully devised, this is also a disquieting and unsettling read about the balance of power, cruelty and compassion . . . Allison writes unobtrusively, setting up illuminating parallels and gently guiding the reader to unexpected understanding