Since the phenomenal success of Eimear McBride’s experimental novel A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing (five awards and counting), readers and critics are paying more attention to smaller publishers, trying to spot the next work to break into the mainstream. Naomi Booth’s lyrical and witty novella, The Lost Art of Sinking, could be the next big thing.
In one way, the book is a coming-of-age tale. The narrator Esther spends her teenage years in Yorkshire before moving down to London to pursue her career. But Esther is different from her friends: she is obsessed with making herself swoon. At school in Yorkshire she plays the “Fainting Game” where “the winner would be the girl who passed out the most times.” Her mother is a dancer who plays Sergei Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet and teaches Esther to surrender herself to the music: “There is no falling in love without the swoon,” she says.
Esther’s attempts at passing out come in more prosaic forms. A friend gives her some cocaine to snort—except it turns out to be Daz. When her boyfriend Aaron takes her to the top of the Pennines in his car, he lunges on top of her, not realising that any excitement she feels is nothing about him, and all to do with trying to hold her breath and pass out. Beautifully written with bursts of crisp poetic monologue and deadpan humour, the novella shows unusual talent. Naomi Booth is a name to watch.