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A Field Guide to Reality

On sale

7th July 2016

Price: £8.99

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Selected: ebook / ISBN-13: 9781784293116

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‘Smart, strange, coping with death through Light’ Margaret Atwood
‘Extraordinary, wise, funny, adventurous’ A. L. Kennedy
‘So utterly startling and inventive, it’s almost an act of resistance’ Miriam Toews
‘I couldn’t put it down. A cult following seems certain’ Literary Review
‘Refreshing as well as disconcerting to read a novel that sets aside convention so resolutely’ Guardian
‘Opts to push the boundaries of what the novel is’ Telegraph
‘A comic metaphysical thriller’ Scotland on Sunday

In this darkly ironic novel – a quest for truth, a satire, an elegy – Joanna Kavenna displays fearless originality and wit in confronting the strangeness of reality and how we contend with the death of those we love. Beautiful, ethereal drawings by Oly Ralfe illustrate this haunting journey through time, space and human understanding.


A. L. Kennedy
A Field Guide to Reality is an extraordinary, wise, funny, adventurous and hallucinogenic book that combines fiction with gleefully warped fact. Kavenna explores the complex nature of reality and perception with vast imaginative energy and a generous spirit.
Miriam Toews
A novel so utterly startling and inventive, it's almost an act of resistance. Joanna Kavenna is a true literary insurgent: bravely unconventional and ruthless in her quest to demonstrate the possibility of deep, distinctive experience.
Apostolos Doxiadis, author of Logicomix
A gripping mystery story, a sprightly tour through Western philosophy, and a thoughtful investigation of the meaning of life, death and the universe. A beautifully written novel
Harry Ritchie, Daily Mail
A Field Guide To Reality is not only weird but rather wonderful; extremely ambitious, inventive and written with a sure lightness of touch.
David Collard, Literary Review
A sophisticated [...] roman des idées, part Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, part Gulliver's Travels . . . Fascinating . . . An engagingly artless off-the-cuff freshness . . . I couldn't put it down. A cult following seems certain.
Suzi Feay, Guardian
If Lewis Carroll was parodying intellectual fashions with his curious characters, Kavenna is here leading the reader playfully through the paradoxes of the quantum universe . . . It is refreshing as well as disconcerting to read a novel that sets aside convention so resolutely, and to encounter a heroine who is so quirky, curious and clever on her quest through the quantum Wonderland
Sofia Laing, Telegraph
A bizarre and delightful journey into the sheer strangeness of what is . . . It opts to push the boundaries of what the novel is, playfully borrowing from other forms and genres. The whole thing is visually and formally offbeat . . . peppered with odd, dark and charming illustrations by Oly Ralfe . . . A fascinating novel. Kavenna's writing tends toward the gravely lyrical . . . One of the great charms of her prose is the humour with which she leavens it. Sly remarks fall like leering winks from a widow . . . Incredibly beautiful
Stuart Kelly, Scotland on Sunday
The 'novel of ideas' here has tended to work best by wit, by wryness and by irony . . . There is a very English kind of surrealism at play in this novel . . . This novel of Roger Bacon and baked beans, a comic metaphysical thriller, is a nebulous and sharp delight
Stuart Kelly, Scotsman
Defying genres and expectations, Joanna Kavenna opens a Pandora's Box of abstruse ideas while sending up life in ivory towers. Relentless in terms of genre - one minute campus comedy, the next elegaic wistfulness, bemused one minute and enthrallingly enlightened the next - perfectly mirrors the novel's major theme
Sam Byers, Spectator
A work of cunning misdirection and trickery - a mystery in thrall to mystery's beauty . . . That it proves so entertaining is testament not only to Kavenna's skill, but also her enthusiasm. This is a novel charged with a vital and distinctly unfashionable faith in the wonder and plurality of knowledge itself . . . For all its lightness of touch, its energy and humour, this is a work concerned with darkness of a very different kind: grief. . . [for which] like the investigations into light that weave their way through this strange and charming novel, there are no easy formulae.
Saga Magazine
I will happily read anything by Joanna Kavenna - she's brilliant, funny, and wildly original . . . It's a brilliant intellectual firework display
Samuel Graydon, Times Literary Supplement
Ralfe's work fills pages and muscles in on the text - it pushes words to one side, or streaks behind them, but it is never intrusive, nor gratuitous. Kavenna's book would be much less affecting, much less beautiful, without them
Margaret Atwood
Oxford inspires dark supernatural novels with Dust . . . A Field Guide to Reality: smart, strange, coping with death through Light