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What to expect

‘The thought of going through it all again, all that love stuff . . .’

Katherine has given up trying to be happy. Thirty, stuck in a town and a job she hates, her mounting cynicism and vicious wit repel the people she wants to attract, and attract the people she knows she should repel. Her ex Daniel, meanwhile, isn’t sure that he loves his new girlfriend Angelica. But somehow not telling her he loves her has become synonymous with telling her that he doesn’t love her, meaning that he has to tell her he loves her just to maintain the status quo.

When their former friend Nathan returns from a stint in a psychiatric ward – to find that his mother has transformed herself into bestselling author and Twitter superstar “Mother Courage” – Katherine, Daniel and Nathan decide to meet to heal old wounds and reaffirm their friendship. But will a reunion end well? Almost certainly not.

Written with dazzling flair and deep insight; veering from scathing satire to a moving account of love and loneliness, Idiopathy neatly skewers the tangled relationships and unhinged narcissism of a self-obsessed generation. Taking aim at militant environmentalists, money-grabbing misery memoirs, self-help quackery and an increasingly bizarre cattle epidemic, it announces the arrival of a formidable, savagely funny talent.

Critics Review

  • ‘A savagely brilliant novel … Brimming with comic brio and nuanced psychological insight, ‘Idiopathy’ signals the arrival of an exciting new talent … If ‘Idiopathy’ was half as fun to write as it is to read I suspect Mr Byers found some happiness along the way.’ David Annand, Sunday Telegraph

    ‘Brilliant … a mordantly riveting first novel about what it’s like to be a thirtysomething.’ John Lanchester, Observer

    ‘Laced with satirical verve . . . this is a savagely funny debut from a gifted, cynical new voice.’ Joseph Charlton, FT

    ‘Will make you purr with delight. It’s well observed, light on its feet and never less than entertaining, with elegant ruminations on sex, love and loneliness that offset by some sublime comic riffs on the state of the nation.’ Sebastian Shakespeare, Tatler

    ‘Scabrously funny, beadily vigilant and often piercingly perceptive … it’s hard to fault the enthusiasm with which Byers goes about his task, or the vicious wit he brings to it.’ Trevor Lewis, Sunday Times

    ‘Page by page, an almost indecently entertaining book. Byers goes beyond being merely a talented comic novelist … insights bring the deeper laughs – and they are what allow him to turn the corner, as the novel reaches its climax, into something altogether more poignant and more serious.’ Sam Leith, TLS

    ‘Brimming with comic brio and nuanced psychological insight , Sam Byers’s first novel, “Idiopathy”, signals the arrival of a new talent.’ Telegraph

    ‘Even as Idiopathy threatens to become an emotional abattoir, Byers’s prose remains spreadsheet-specific, mock analytical, funny . . . [Byers] has taken a laudable risk in turning his Bovarys bovine and Kareninas sheepish.’ Joshua Cohen, The New York Times Book Review

    ‘Byers has a quicksilver prose style and an easy, unlabored way of getting his point across . . . A sad, poignant and funny debut, deeply relatable and replete with promise for the author’s future.’ Time Out New York (4 out of 5 stars)

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