The Panopticon

By Jenni Fagan
panopticon cover



Anais Hendricks, fifteen, is in the back of a police car, headed for the Panopticon, a home for chronic young offenders. She can't remember the events that led her here, but across town a policewoman lies in a coma and there is blood on Anais' school uniform.

Smart, funny and fierce, Anais is a counter-culture outlaw, a bohemian philosopher in sailor shorts and a pillbox hat. She is also a child who has been let down, or worse, by just about every adult she has ever met. The residents of the Panopticon form intense bonds, heightened by their place on the periphery, and Anais finds herself part of an ad hoc family there. Much more suspicious are the social workers, especially Helen, who is about to leave her job for an elephant sanctuary in India but is determined to force Anais to confront the circumstances of her birth before she goes. Looking up at the watchtower that looms over the residents, Anais knows her fate: she is part of an experiment, she always was, it's a given, a liberty - a fact. And the experiment is closing in.

Year of Publication


Jenni Fagan was listed as one of the Granta Best of Young British Novelists for her debut. The Panopticon features Anais Hendricks – the fact that both names are brands is both tragic and joyous – a girl in care who couldn’t care less. Is she an experiment for paranormal powers? Is she a danger to herself or to others? This powerful novel undercuts assumptions and tugs heart-strings. -- Stuart Kelly

Fagan’s beguiling, wayward narrator Anais mentally escapes from the oppressive, Orwellian holding-pen of the Panopticon by masturbating to images of women she has seen in old magazines.  ‘Hot hot hot’ is her hard-to-argue-with conclusion. -Alan Bissett

"Each page sparkles with the ebullient and sinister magic of great storytelling ... An utterly magnificent achievement." -- Irvine Welsh "Not just uncompromising and courageous. I think it's one of the most cunning and spirited novels I've read for years... An intelligent and deeply literary novel." -- Ali Smith "It is the most assured and intriguing first novel by a Scottish writer that I have read in a decade, a book which is lithely and poetically written, politically and morally brave and simply unforgettable." -- Stuart Kelly Scotsman "The 15-year-old heroine and narrator, has a rough, raw, joyous voice that leaps right off the page and grabs you by the throat .The glorious Anais is unforgettable." The Times "Written with great verve and brio ... An astonishing debut, I have a feeling that Fagan is a name we will hear more of" -- Jackie Kay

Anais is the kind of character who literally jumps off the page. She is also a child who has been let down, or worse, by just about every adult she has ever met. -- Wendy Kirk, Glasgow Women's Library

Author Biography

Jenni Fagan was born in Livingston, Scotland, and lives in Fife. She graduated from Greenwich University with the highest possible mark for a student of Creative Writing, and won a scholarship to the Royal Holloway MFA. A published poet, she has won awards from Arts Council England, Dewar Arts, and Scottish Screen among others. She has twice been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and was shortlisted for the Dundee International Book Prize. Jenni works as a writer in residence, in hospitals and prisons.