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Inglorious A Novel

Joanna Kavenna




Trade Paperback

304 Pages


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Winner of the Orange Broadband Award for New Writers

One day successful young journalist and dedicated urbanite Rosa Lane sends her boss an e-mail that says “I quit” and then walks out of her job. She can't explain why—not to Liam, who’s lived with her for years; not to her friends; not to her anxious, recently widowed father. All Rosa knows is that she needs to find enlightenment, to somehow understand her mother’s death and do more than just earn her living.
Thus begins the piercingly wise and bitingly funny odyssey of Rosa Lane. Along the way, she is deceived by her lover, evicted by her roommate, threatened by her bank manager, picked over by prospective employers, befuddled by philosophy, and tormented by omnivorous London. Brought very low indeed, Rosa in her desperation makes a final assault on those who have done her wrong, leading to the beginning of her return to normality—whatever that is.

In a remarkable fiction debut, Joanna Kavenna displays lacerating wit, a perfect eye for social hypocrisies, and great depths of compassion to create a triumphant modern heroine.


Praise for Inglorious

"'You're depressed,' a doctor tells Rosa, the thirty-five-year-old heroine of this debut novel. It is one of many simplistic diagnoses offered by Rosa’s acquaintances, who are shocked when, months after her mother’s death, she quits her job as a newspaper writer, is dumped by her boyfriend, and rapidly sinks into debt. To Rosa, her condition feels like anything but depression; she has a sense of excitement, of the tumult of her thoughts, of being 'driven towards an end that I do not know.'  Kavenna pursues the causes and trajectory of a nervous breakdown with a relentlessness that comes close to overwhelming the minimal plot; still, her understanding of the complexity of depression and her evocation of her heroine’s bewilderment are precise, and Rosa, for all her misery, has an appealing and often funny voice."—The New Yorker

"In exchanging the usual niceties of story and character development for [a] barrage of language, full of obscure allusions and quotations, Kavenna faces the charge of pomposity—worse, she risks alienating her readers with a display of linguistic dexterity that dazzles rather than engages. That she succeeds instead in captivating is testament to her sly, self-deprecating wit."—Olivia Laing, The Guardian (UK)

"The downward spiral of a breakdown begins ever so slowly. You turn, you slip, and you turn again, and then you start hurtling from basement to sub-basement to lower levels three and four. Inglorious is . . . arresting, and barefisted—for the blows come hard. But it is also a work of art: tart, wise, human, funny, and best of all, without the least trace of sentiment. Kavenna finds humor in the abyss . . . and ultimately exhilaration at the end of the tunnel."—André Aciman, author of Call Me By Your Name

"Joanna Kavenna’s writing is full of wit and wisdom in glorious proportion."—Aleksandar Hemon, author of Nowhere Man

“Kavenna is incisive and funny enough to make Rosa convincingly crazy.”—Publishers Weekly

“Depressed Rosa, homeless, jobless and at the mercy of her friends, muses on the meaning of life in a darkly comic fiction debut. Kavenna sets her heroine on a slippery path. Rosa's mother's death has triggered some kind of breakdown and she has begun to withdraw from the kind of life everyone else is busy leading, focused on mortgages, children and possessions. She has walked away from a good job as a journalist and abandoned the flat she was sharing with her boyfriend, to move in with a series of friends until they ask her to leave. Sinking into debt, she knows she should find work but doesn't seem able to take the applications seriously, distracted as she is by her detached, mortality-clouded perspective. While the street life of London streams around her, she focuses on minutiae like sounds, the weather and why the word TEMP keeps appearing as graffiti. She composes crazed letters and makes nonsensical lists: 'Vacuum the living room'; 'Read widely in world religions'; 'Stop writing these lists that waste your time.' Inside her head, a sane-seeming and erudite monologue considers philosophical questions, but her actions and emotions when visiting friends in the Lake District or going for an interview betray her fragility. Kavenna's wit and quirky insights turn what might seem dreary and repetitive material into an oddly compelling and subversive disquisition on modern assumptions. Perhaps we are all only 'drifting in darkness, fumbling around,' or so begins to suspect Rosa, newly aware that TEMP (for temperate) might be the future, as she fades from view on a train to Paris. A horribly funny, surprisingly jaunty visit to the edge of the abyss.”—Kirkus Reviews

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt

RetreatShe began it on an ordinary summer's day when she found--quite in contravention of the orders of her boss--she was idling at the computer, kicking her heels and counting. Rosa Lane, thirty-five and several months, aware of an invisible stopwatch tolling her down, was counting the years, the hours spent sitting in offices, staring at the sky, at the flickering screen that was sending her blind. She had passed the previous ten years in a holding position, her legs locked under a table. She had typed a million emails and strained her wrists. She was no closer to understanding
Read the full excerpt


  • Joanna Kavenna

  • Joanna Kavenna was born and raised in the United Kingdom, and has spent some years living in the United States and various parts of Europe. Her first book, The Ice Museum, was short-listed for the Ondaatje Prize. Her writing has appeared in the London Review of Books, the Times Literary Supplement, and the International Herald Tribune, among other publications.




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