(Shortlisted for the 2012 Man Booker Prize) Will Self's stunning stream-of-consciousness novel opens with an epigram from James Joyce: "A brother is as easily forgotten as an umbrella." From there it moves seamlessly between Edwardian London and a suburban mental hospital in 1971, between the story of young Audrey Death and the psychiatrist observing her a half-century later, weaving a dense tapestry of consciousness and life as refracted through the dark glass of a long-term mental institution.
"A work of throwback modernism ... an erudite yet barking mad novel about barking madness.... You give yourself over to Umbrella in flashes, as if it were a radio station you're unable to tune in that you suspect is playing the most beautiful song you will ever hear.... This novel locks into moments of ungodly beauty and radiant moral sympathy ... [as it offers] a bitter critique of how society has viewed (and cared for) those with mental illnesses. It's about myriad other things too: class, the changing nature of British society, trench warfare in World War I, how technology can be counted on to upend everything. At heart it's a novel about seeing.... Mr. Self often enough writes with such vividness it's as if he is the first person to see anything at all."—NYTimes