A conceptual tour de force and a satire of pseudo-philosophy and literary devices, from the brilliantly comic ironist and Granta Best of Young British author
'An extraordinary, wise, funny, adventurous and hallucinogenic book that combines fiction with gleefully warped fact. Kavenna explores the complex nature of reality and perception with vast imaginative energy and a generous spirit.' A. L. Kennedy
Eliade Jencks knows the only reason people call at midnight is to tell you someone has died. Professor Solete was one of her few friends. Perhaps her only friend. But his friends don't think much of her - a vague, scruffy waitress, impatient with philosophical onanism at parties. Naturally, they're horrified to find out that Solete has left her his Field Guide to Reality.
The Guide has taken on legendary proportions among the celebrated minds of Oxford. The work of a lifetime, it purportedly advances Solete's great philosophical Theory of Everything and even defines the very nature of reality. A big, important book. Only, they can't find it.
So, baffled, grieving, and slightly annoyed, Eliade sets out on a quest for the missing manuscript, and falls down a rabbit-hole of metaphysical possibility. From a psychotropic tea party to the Priests of the Quantum Realm, she trips her way through Solete's wonderland reality and, without quite meaning to, bursts open the boundaries of her own.
In this clever, darkly ironic and moving novel, Granta Best of Young British author Joanna Kavenna displays fearless originality and dread wit in confronting the strangeness of reality and how we contend with the disappearance of those we love.
Beautiful original drawings by Oly Ralfe illustrate this haunting tale of bringing light to an empty room.
A Field Guide to Reality is an extraordinary, wise, funny, adventurous and hallucinogenic book that combines fiction with gleefully warped fact. Kavenna explores the complex nature of reality and perception with vast imaginative energy and a generous spirit. — A. L. Kennedy
A novel so utterly startling and inventive, it's almost an act of resistance. Joanna Kavenna is a true literary insurgent: bravely unconventional and ruthless in her quest to demonstrate the possibility of deep, distinctive experience. — Miriam Toews
A gripping mystery story, a sprightly tour through Western philosophy, and a thoughtful investigation of the meaning of life, death and the universe. A beautifully written novel — Apostolos Doxiadis, author of Logicomix
A Field Guide To Reality is not only weird but rather wonderful; extremely ambitious, inventive and written with a sure lightness of touch. — Harry Ritchie, Daily Mail
A sophisticated [...] roman des idées, part Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, part Gulliver's Travels . . . Fascinating . . . An engagingly artless off-the-cuff freshness . . . I couldn't put it down. A cult following seems certain. — David Collard, Literary Review
If Lewis Carroll was parodying intellectual fashions with his curious characters, Kavenna is here leading the reader playfully through the paradoxes of the quantum universe . . . It is refreshing as well as disconcerting to read a novel that sets aside convention so resolutely, and to encounter a heroine who is so quirky, curious and clever on her quest through the quantum Wonderland — Suzi Feay, Guardian
A bizarre and delightful journey into the sheer strangeness of what is . . . It opts to push the boundaries of what the novel is, playfully borrowing from other forms and genres. The whole thing is visually and formally offbeat . . . peppered with odd, dark and charming illustrations by Oly Ralfe . . . A fascinating novel. Kavenna's writing tends toward the gravely lyrical . . . One of the great charms of her prose is the humour with which she leavens it. Sly remarks fall like leering winks from a widow . . . Incredibly beautiful — Sofia Laing, Telegraph
The 'novel of ideas' here has tended to work best by wit, by wryness and by irony . . . There is a very English kind of surrealism at play in this novel . . . This novel of Roger Bacon and baked beans, a comic metaphysical thriller, is a nebulous and sharp delight — Stuart Kelly, Scotland on Sunday
Defying genres and expectations, Joanna Kavenna opens a Pandora's Box of abstruse ideas while sending up life in ivory towers. Relentless in terms of genre - one minute campus comedy, the next elegaic wistfulness, bemused one minute and enthrallingly enlightened the next - perfectly mirrors the novel's major theme — Stuart Kelly, Scotsman
A work of cunning misdirection and trickery - a mystery in thrall to mystery's beauty . . . That it proves so entertaining is testament not only to Kavenna's skill, but also her enthusiasm. This is a novel charged with a vital and distinctly unfashionable faith in the wonder and plurality of knowledge itself . . . For all its lightness of touch, its energy and humour, this is a work concerned with darkness of a very different kind: grief. . . [for which] like the investigations into light that weave their way through this strange and charming novel, there are no easy formulae. — Sam Byers, Spectator
I will happily read anything by Joanna Kavenna - she's brilliant, funny, and wildly original . . . It's a brilliant intellectual firework display — Saga Magazine
Ralfe's work fills pages and muscles in on the text - it pushes words to one side, or streaks behind them, but it is never intrusive, nor gratuitous. Kavenna's book would be much less affecting, much less beautiful, without them — Samuel Graydon, Times Literary Supplement