Practice

Hardcover / ISBN-13: 9781399614535

Price: £18.99

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Six o’clock in the morning, Sunday, at the worn-out end of January.

In a small room in an Oxford college, cold and dim and full of quiet, an undergraduate student works on an essay about Shakespeare’s sonnets.

Annabel has a meticulously planned routine for her day – work, yoga, meditation, long walks; no apples after meals, no coffee on an empty stomach – but finds it repeatedly thrown off course. Despite her efforts, she cannot stop her thoughts slipping off their intended track into the shadows of elaborate erotic fantasies.

And as the essay’s deadline looms, so too does the irrepressible presence of other people: Annabel’s boyfriend Rich, keen to come and visit her; her family and friends who demand her attention; and darker crises, obliquely glimpsed, all threatening to disturb the much-cherished quiet in her mind.

Exquisitely crafted, wryly comic, and completely original, Practice is a novel about the life of the mind and the life of the body, about the repercussions of a rigid routine and the deep pleasures of literature.

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Reviews

I had a lot of fun with Practice by Rosalind Brown. I think only she and Proust can get me into the space where I'm happy to read about someone walking across a room for all these pages. You're reading about reading; you have to be really good to do that in a compelling way.
Helen Oyeyemi, author of Parasol Against the Axe
Annabel aspires to "understand subtle, fragile things". This might be an apt description of Practice too . . . A touching portrait of an ordinary life and "what happens when repeatedly nothing happens"
Spectator
Brown's gorgeously written debut is a hypnotic meditation on being attentive . . . Brown's attentiveness to the suppleness of language and the poetry of everyday life makes this slim novel absolutely transporting . . . A brilliant and keen work about being fully alive
Kirkus
If Practice is a novel about wrestling with discipline, it's equally about the generative opportunities of distraction and a meditation on the wellsprings of creativity . . . Brown treats us to some firecracker phrases . . . Brown's skill in turning words is evident
Telegraph
Rosalind Brown's novel captures with singular precision the perverse and seductive nature of closely reading a work of literature: of sitting with a text, internalising it, living around it, so that the language becomes entangled with our daily routines, banalities and pleasures. Here, the seasonal rhythms of the campus novel are compressed stylishly into a single day. What emerges amid the brilliantly observed details of one woman's interior life is an allegory for reading as a means of inhabiting literature at the deepest level - while making a discrete literary achievement of its own
Sam Buchan-Watts, author of Path Through Wood
I was absolutely blown away by Rosalind Brown's Practice. It's a true marvel. It was unlike anything I've ever read before; to read it felt like meditation. I lost myself in every perfect, surprising sentence, in its painfully acute observations. Every day I looked forward to the hour I would spend reading it: I was awed by the care of it, the beauty, the tautness, the way it made the everyday transcendent
Elizabeth Macneal, author of The Doll Factory
Practice is rich and precise and intelligent. I started counting up paradoxes: a novel about restriction that stages beautiful questions about fantasy; a novel limited to a single day that swoops among time frames; a novel where containment allows for bravura stylistic power. It's a unique novel, and Rosalind Brown is a unique - and wonderful - novelist
Adam Thirlwell, author of The Future Future
From the narrowest and most confined of premises, Rosalind Brown has conjured a novel as big as a world. Reading this book is a strange and shimmering joy; a glimpse of a miracle
Jon McGregor, author of Reservoir 13
A quietly brave book, with a silhouetted protagonist whose unfilled blanks compel genuine intrigue
Daily Mail
An extraordinary book, a phenomenology of a day in the life of a mind that draws the reader in with an at times alarming closeness and a haunting clarity. I've seldom read such an engaging, persuasively written account of the pleasures, hopes, fears and difficulties of being a person. Nor such an accurate account of what happens when you read. It is beautiful without being precious, intelligent and acute without effort. I loved it
Dr Ian Patterson
Practice won me round with its good writing. A beautifully written meditation on the contentments of reading. Rosalind Brown feels like the real thing
Andrew Miller, author of Pure
A novel spectacularly committed to a young woman's intellectual and bodily appetites, written in exact and tender prose
Sarah Moss, author of Ghost Wall
A detailed and lyrical ode to one young woman's way of being, and to the little rituals that guide her. I found Practice to be both cautionary and rousing. A candid portrait of a day in a tightly controlled life
Chloë Ashby, author of Second Self
Annabel's methodical approach to her work and life is brilliantly shattered by Brown's ability to throw a shocking line into proceedings, so that what begins quietly becomes a compelling insight into the recesses of the human mind
Observer
The minutiae of a day in the life of a mostly happy student are brilliantly conveyed in this wryly comic debut . . . Brown is a wonderful writer
Guardian
Each sentence is a taut, considered work of art . . . Almost Virginia Woolf-like in its focus on the passing of time and somewhat reminiscent of the poetic prose of Eimear McBride, this novel announces a unique and exciting new talent in British fiction
Booklist
An exceptional debut novel . . . A deft, observant, interior novel about reading . . . Practice is drily funny, and also bleakly incisive about the particular pressure experienced by some smart young women to strive for perfection . . . A small book about very big things - how we experience the world through language. The first essential novel of 2024
Readings.com
A day in the life of an introspective and erudite student, Practice makes clear the gulf between an interior life and the one that is presented to the world. Rosalind Brown has a rare ability to record - with great humour, originality and near-hallucinogenic precision - the significance, or not, of each tumbling moment and thought
Jennifer Higgie, author of The Mirror and the Palette
Rosalind Brown's impressive debut novel deliciously combines the elaborate formality of a Shakespeare sonnet with the fully realised embodiment of a less ambiguous age. And its preoccupations - love, desire, identity - are timeless
Catherine Taylor, author of The Stirrings
Exerts a strange fascination . . . Practice is funny, intense and strangely gripping; after all, it's the non-events - stray thoughts and ignoble bodily needs among them - that form the texture of a life
Financial Times
Practice totally won me over, not least on account of its many passages of exquisite writing
Mark Haddon, author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time