"Extraordinary"--THE NEW YORKER
In the formally innovative tradition of Grief Is the Thing with Feathers and Ducks, Newburyport comes a dazzlingly original, shot-in-the-arm of a debut that reveals a young woman's every thought over the course of one deceptively ordinary day.
She wakes up, goes to work. Watches the clock and checks her phone. But underneath this monotony there's something else going on: something under her skin.
Relayed in interweaving columns that chart the feedback loop of memory, the senses, and modern distractions with wit and precision, our narrator becomes increasingly anxious as the day moves on: Is she overusing the heart emoji? Isn't drinking eight glasses of water a day supposed to fix everything? Why is the etiquette of the women's bathroom so fraught? How does she define rape? And why can't she stop scratching?
Fiercely moving and slyly profound, little scratch is a defiantly playful look at how our minds function in--and survive--the darkest moments.
Watson experiments with line breaks, repetition, and columns to express the unnamed narrator's frenetic consciousness over a single day in this inventive, immersive debut. The narrator wakes with memories of an uncomfortable sexual encounter, after dreaming about it from an out-of-body perspective. Meanwhile, she registers a persistent itch that causes her to scratch herself raw ("blood under my nails from fucking scratching in my sleep"). As the novel progresses through the narrator's routine and commute to her unsatisfying job at a London news agency ("got to do this thing again, the waking up thing, the day thing, the work thing"), she struggles to resist scratching her arms and legs. Competing thoughts often run parallel in two columns, with intensity indicated in all caps and dialogue in italics. Watson's clever convention and set pieces are not simply flourishes but integral to the plot and themes. There's much relatable humor in the heroine's everyday snafus, such as her struggle for coherence while speaking with a male colleague, and a tedious task with a glue stick, the low point of her workday. The tone shifts as the narrator begins to consider that she was raped, and the last third of the novel becomes genuinely harrowing and unsettling. Watson's haunting, virtuosic performance is well worth a look.