'Wise, funny, suspenseful' JONATHAN SAFRAN FOER
'Sardonic and strange ... With its dark humour and loopy lyricism, it bewitches' DAILY TELEGRAPH
'Narrated with badass gusto' DAILY MAIL
'Reads like a botanist's cross-breeding of The Secret History and Department of Speculation' EMMA STRAUB
Nell Barber, an expelled PhD candidate in Biological Science, is exploring the fine line between poison and antidote, working alone to set a speed record for the detoxification of poisonous plants. Her mentor, Dr. Joan Kallas, is the hero of Nell's heart. Nell frequently finds herself standing in the doorway to Joan's office despite herself, mesmerized by Joan's elegance, success, and spiritual force.
Surrounded by Nell's ex, her best friend, her best friend's boyfriend, and Joan's buffoonish husband, the two scientists are tangled together at the center of a web of illicit relationships, grudges, and obsessions. All six are burdened by desire and ambition, and as they collide on the university campus, their attractions set in motion a domino effect of affairs and heartbreak.
Meanwhile, Nell slowly fills her empty apartment with poisonous plants to study, and she begins to keep a series of notebooks, all dedicated to Joan. She logs her research and how she spends her days, but the notebooks ultimately become a painstaking map of love. In a dazzling and unforgettable voice, Rebecca Dinerstein Knight has written a spellbinding novel of emotional and intellectual intensity.
A young academic develops an unhealthy fixation on her adviser in this arresting novel of obsession from Dinerstein Knight (The Sunlit Night). Nell Barber is expelled from her PhD program in botany at Columbia University, along with the rest of her lab members, after their colleague Rachel Simons dies from exposure to poisonous plants. Nell breaks up with her medievalist boyfriend Tom, gets a job at a bar, and concentrates on completing Rachel's dangerous work in her apartment to capture the attention of former adviser Joan Kallas, with whom she is obsessed. While Joan tries to steer Nell away from the dangerous project, Joan starts up an affair with Tom, and Nell's best friend, the gorgeous, high-achieving Mishti, sleeps with Joan's husband. The narrative takes the form of entries in what is supposed to be Nell's scientific notebook (which are addressed to Joan), in which Nell discusses the main players' love affairs and tries to reach conclusions about her would-be mentor. After the details of the affairs emerge at a small holiday party at Joan's home, Nell loses her chance at an invitation to join Joan's new research project. Nell's intensity and the hypnotic, second-person prose convincingly render the protagonist's bewitched, self-destructive state. Readers who liked I Love Dick and want something more lurid will appreciate this.