An acid-sharp novel of language and desire from Jonathan Gibbs, acclaimed author of Randall, or The Painted Grape:
"It was not the only painting in the room, but it was the one that drew the eye. It was a Golden Age interior, the like of which you might see a dozen times in the Rijksmuseum, Jenny guessed, and once or twice in any gallery in Europe or America with a half-decent collection. Simple, domestic: a woman and a man in a room, the striking yellow and black tiled floor spread in expanding diamonds towards the viewer. There were paintings on the walls of the room in the painting, and a mirror on the left wall, tilted, that reflected the tiles, in a masterful flourish of perspective…"
When Jenny Thursley, a 40-year old linguistics lecturer, returns to Europe for a conference in Amsterdam, she finds herself pitched back into the presence of a life she had fled. There, she re-encounters a once-inspirational mentor, finds a former lover again within reach, and is surprised by the flickerings of a new longing. Over little more than twenty-four hours Jenny must write a keynote conference speech, face up to her own mortality, and to the consequences of the bad choices she has made – while finding the nerve to make new choices that might be no better. Witty, sexy and provocative, The Large Door is a meditation on life and living, and on ages – golden and otherwise – that recalls the sparkling mid-century work of writers such as Iris Murdoch and Brigid Brophy.
As Kate McLoughlin says in Times Literary Supplement:
“In his new novel, The Large Door, Jonathan Gibbs captures the academic conference universe to perfection... The fiction is at once beautifully controlled and acrobatic. One always has the sense that a wry intelligence is in charge."
Daniel Davis Wood, for This is Splice, says the book:
"purports to offer pleasures of a more restrained sort and yet manages to invest them with unexpected depths of significance. Like the painting Jenny admires, its meaning overflows the limitations of its form. Despite its slimness, to look up from its pages and away from its words is to find oneself looking at a world that still bears the impression of its questions."
Chris Deerin, in The Big Issue, says:
"Speaking, touching, looking, moving, texting, hiding: these form Gibbs’s toolkit as he examines the ways in which we communicate – and avoid communicating – with one another […] The Large Door has echoes throughout of Saul Bellow’s famous line that “Death is the dark backing that a mirror needs if we are to see anything.” But it is also very, very funny – Gibbs doesn’t miss the chance for a bit of campus-novel preposterousness. I can’t think of many authors who are capable of doing so many things so well, all at once."
"Clever and seductive, The Large Door blends all the ambiguity of a classic Dutch interior painting with contemporary academic bitchery and a very real, and human, quest for love. To read it is like looking into a convex mirror of challenging and constantly changing perspectives."
– Catherine Taylor, writer and critic
"A compelling novel in which forensic social observation merges with an ingenious exploration of contemporary ideas and theories."
– Richard Beard, author of Acts of the Assassins
"An absorbing and deeply satisfying book. It captures what it's like to feel adrift, confused, and panicked at a hinge moment in life; it also evokes the pain and melancholy that can accompany desire. All this in prose that is brisk, gleaming, and precise. Utterly compelling."
– Katherine Angel, author of Unmastered, A Book on Desire, Most Difficult to Tell
"The Large Door extends the reach of the university novel into new and unsettling territory. The men and women alike are terribly well drawn. Gibbs has achieved that special kind of flexible and transparent hermaphroditism one so wants both as a novelist and as a reader: to be able to inhabit different genders without identifying with them is always the aim of sympathetic observation and social comedy. The novel is very melancholic and touching, but the emotion floats; we never wallow in distress. Somehow, perhaps because the sensuousness of the writing is so lightly-worn, we’re buoyed up in their midst."
– Will Eaves, author of Murmur.
Jonathan Gibbs is a writer, critic and lecturer based in London. His novel Randall, or The Painted Grape was published to wide acclaim by Galley Beggar Press in 2014, and has been translated into French and Dutch. It was longlisted for the 2015 Desmond Elliott Prize and shortlisted for the inaugural Figaro Prix du Livre de Voyage Urbain. His short fiction has appeared in Best British Short Stories 2014 and 2015 and was shortlisted for the inaugural White Review Short Story Prize in 2013. He lectures in Creative Writing at St Mary’s University, Twickenham. He also curates A Personal Anthology, a project that invites writers, critics and others to ‘dream-edit’ an anthology of their favourite short stories. He can be found on Twitter @tiny_camels.
The Large Door by Jonathan Gibbs