Sudjic’s engrossing debut novel explores how technology dissolves personal boundaries while stripping away true intimacy. Alice travels from London to New York to stay with her sick grandmother during the spring of 2014. Even before she meets Mizuko, a writer who teaches creative writing at Columbia, Alice is obsessed with her. When circumstances align—nudged as far as possible by Alice for the two of them to meet—Alice is desperate for the kind of closeness she’s always imagined could be possible between her and the lauded writer. Physical, emotional, and digital boundaries are tested and broken as Alice struggles to replicate her close connection with Mizuko’s social media persona in her organic relationship with the real Mizuko. Whether that will happen rests on Mizuko’s ever-changing whims, but she simultaneously wields her technological abilities over Mizuko, who is transfixed by social media. Will the flesh-and-blood reality ever fall in line with Alice’s Instagram-addled fantasy? Sudjic’s story is disjointed, alluring, disorienting, and provoking, touching on many contemporary concerns arising from the pervasiveness of social media. At many moments the character of Alice is rather too inscrutable, and Sudjic’s steady, reliable prose is not enough to anchor some of Alice’s more dramatic actions. While some readers will find the ending confusing and unsatisfying, none will be bored by this frenetic, timely story of digital fixation actualized. (Apr.)
New York Times Book Review Paperback Row One of NPR's "Best Books of 2017" One of Entertainment Weekly's "16 Debut Novels to Read in 2017" One of the Observer's "New Faces of Fiction for 2017" One of Elle UK’s “Six Top Debut Authors of 2017” One of Esquire’s “8 Best Summer Reads” One of i-D/Vice's "10 Brilliant Emerging Female Authors to Read in 2017" One of the Guardian’s “The Best Debut Fiction” 2017 titles One of the Independent's "10 best debut novels by women authors" One of Flavorwire's "10 Must-Read Books for April" One of Bustle's "11 Of The Best Fiction Books Coming Out In April 2017" One of ReadItForward's "17 Books We're Excited to Read in 2017" One of the Lady Magazine's "Must-reads for 2017" (UK) One of Refinery 29's "2017 Books We're Most Excited About Right Now" (UK) One of Autostraddle's "45 Queer Feminist Books To Read in Early 2017" One of Hello Giggles's "15 new books we can’t wait to read in April" One of Signature Read's "Nowhere to Hide: 5 Books on the Changing Art of Stalking" “Clever, riddled with a network of allusions similar to that of Marisha Pessl’s Special Topics in Calamity Physics…Olivia Sudjic’s smart debut novel is an uncomfortably contemporary tale of unrequited love in the internet age.”—NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW "Sympathy will double-click your heart."—VANITY FAIR “In the digital age, the lives of glamorous others have never felt more tantalizingly near, or so finds the lonely antiheroine of Olivia Sudjic’s Sympathy.”—VOGUE "Sudjic’s figurative approach to depicting social media is what really marks [Sympathy] as the first truly literary book largely about Instagram...Sympathy is an exceptionally unnerving read. The book explores digital power dynamics, and the deep implication of our selves with these dynamics, with a sophistication that never feels pretentious. Sympathy is a remarkable debut, and with the arrival of such a novelist we can finally welcome our techno-dystopian future with open arms."—NEW REPUBLIC "Sympathy is a sneaky, subtle debut novel about intimacy, aspiration and the Internet. As the protagonist, Alice, stalks and befriends her Instagram hero in a worsening spiral of obsession, the reader falls into something like the glassy-eyed fugue state you reach after too much online scrolling: mesmerized, inert, unable to stop."—NPR "If last summer’s must-read debut was Emma Cline’s The Girls, this year it’s undoubtedly Olivia Sudjic’s remarkable Sympathy."—VOGUE (UK) "In this zeitgeisty debut, Olivia Sudjic has revealed herself to be an erudite writer who can weave together themes of online obsessions, family secrets and unexpected parallel lives...Filled with explosive intelligence and dark humour, Sympathy is both beautiful and raw, and captures the essence of personal responsibility in the digital age."—ELLE (UK) “Olivia Sudjic’s smart, savvy debut novel is a digital-age cautionary tale about liking too much, following too intensely and unraveling while striving to connect… Sudjic excavates the dark depths of the soul, but she also hits us with regular bouts of comic brilliance…This is a fresh, topical, switched-on novel…Sympathy is fact-filled, but it is also packed with tension, pathos and vitality…This is a potent first novel from a formidable talent.”—MINNEAPOLIS STAR TRIBUNE “Sympathy by Olivia Sudjic [is] the best fictional account I’ve read of the way the internet has shaped our inner lives. A literary thriller that confirms the arrival of a major new talent.”—THE GUARDIAN "A new direction for literature and fiction."—NPR, Weekend Edition "The book of the summer...Sympathy opens with what must be the most intense description of an Instagram follow request ever committed to print...With this, the stage is set for a contemporary tale of obsession...What makes Sympathy such a standout in its approach to social media is a move way from Black Mirror-style satire and, instead, a smart and lyrical evocation of that murky emotional terrain between our online and offline selves...Full of wry humour and sharp observations."—VICE (UK) "[Part of] the new guard...representing a very modern take on sexuality and identity...[Sudjic] cleverly explores what damage our smartphones are doing to our souls."—STYLIST (UK) “A fascinating story about how we connect in the digital age… Imagine Alice Through the Looking Glass for the Instagram generation and you’ll get a sense of Sympathy… it explores the obsession of one young woman with another, an obsession fed by social media feeds and resulting in a slow but devastating slippage of identity… At more than 400 pages, Sympathy serves up David Mitchell levels of plot; it is also subtly mimetic… [its] narrative advances like a search, link by link, as Alice follows her nose through meat – and cyberspace – leaving not breadcrumbs but photos behind… But if Sympathy is in part a cautionary tale, its author is very far from po-faced: abuzz with ideas and enthusiasm, she leaves you convinced that there’s much, much more to come.”—OBSERVER, "Meet the new faces of fiction for 2017" "As the novel [...] so chillingly illustrates, what social media actually offers is more often the illusion of connection...Fittingly, the narrative is held together by a dream-like disjointedness...the reading experience rendered akin to that of losing oneself online...A gripping odyssey into one woman’s online-addled inner life that shrewdly ties together the age-old hubris of youth with a particular sort of new digital naïveté."—INDEPENDENT (UK) "[Sympathy] represents an extraordinary coming together of stories and ideas."—THE SPECTATOR (UK) "A young woman is consumed by obsession in a thrilling debut that skewers our digital culture...engrossing...Novels often handle digital culture gingerly, as a strange new world that is somehow alien to our own and to that of the written page. Sudjic's achievement is to incorporate this world at a granular level; it provides both the mechanisms necessary to propel her plot and the texture that defines her characters and their experience of New York...Sympathy is an intelligent and absorbing literary thriller that promises much for the future."—FINANCIAL TIMES (UK) “An all-too-real depiction of the fickle feeling of closeness the internet can inspire.”—i-D/ VICE, "10 brilliant emerging female authors to read in 2017" "This debut has been acclaimed as the 'First Great Instagram Novel', and what it does is both new and strange – and deeply familiar. From the infancy of the industrial revolution, novels have thrived on technological change, dramatising the aesthetics of machines as well as the changes (usually deformations) they make to the human soul. The pantheon of post-industrial writing is Humphrey Jennings’s Pandaemonium: The Coming of the Machine 1660-1886, and if there were to be a sequel for our digital age, Sympathy would earn a place in it for its exquisite, sustained observation of our use of smartphones ...Sympathy is an astute, quirky, slow-burning satire on emerging codes of behaviour, intergenerational differences, globalisation, the tech industry and the vortex of the dark web ...Rarely do novels so ostentatiously of the moment succeed so well at gesturing to the universal."—THE GUARDIAN (UK) "Olivia Sudjic's Sympathy is the addictive new book about Instagram that everyone is reading."—EVENING STANDARD (UK) “A dark, spellbinding reflection on relationships in the Digital Age, Sympathy is a debut that will have you rethinking the way life online intersects with existence offscreen.” —REFINERY 29 "This debut novel takes the internet and its discontents as its subject through the story of a virtual obsession turned IRL."—FLAVORWIRE, "10 Must-Read Books for April" "Sympathy is a haunting exploration of our digital lives, and as dizzyingly addictive as scrolling through your ex’s Facebook pictures."—DIVA MAGAZINE (UK) “Olivia Sudjic’s skillful debut novel plays on the idea that everything in our digital lives is seen through some sort of filter—so where, exactly, lies the truth?”—READITFORWARD, "17 Books We're Excited to Read in 2017" “Sympathy turns out to be—like so many mysteries—a book about the past rising back into the present and setting everything askew. It’s a haunting conclusion to a novel that’s frequently disarming.”—LITHUB "A brilliantly claustrophobic read, as Alice gets caught up in a tangle of lies and sexual encounters, and begins to lose sight of who she really is."—PSYCHOLOGIES MAGAZINE (UK) "Sympathy tells the thrilling story of Alice and Mizuko, two people who get a lot more than they expected from their online connection." —HELLO GIGGLES, "15 new books we can’t wait to read in April" “What unfolds is a dark narrative about the far-fetched connections we create online and in our heads, and how we attempt to pass them along as sheer fate or coincidence.” —STET MAGAZINE “Olivia Sudjic’s engrossing debut novel, Sympathy, explores how technology dissolves personal boundaries. Alice, recently moved from London to New York, becomes obsessed with author Mizuko Himura. Physical, emotional, and digital boundaries are tested and broken as Alice struggles to replicate her close connection with Mizuko’s social media persona in her organic relationship with the real Mizuko.” —PUBLISHERS WEEKLY “The reason to read this novel, aside from the au courant topic, is the luscious, absorbing writing.” —LIBRARY JOURNAL “Readers will find much to appreciate in this very contemporary bildungsroman.”—BOOKLIST "Author Olivia Sudjic may only be in her late twenties...but that hasn't stopped critics from raving about her debut novel, Sympathy. The Guardian even described the Cambridge-educated writer's work as 'the best fictional account... of the way the internet has shaped our inner lives'...Set in New York City, it's the story of a young woman's obsession with a Japanese writer's online presence – her 'internet twin' – and the connections they share. This is one for your summer reading list."—REFINERY 29 (UK), "The 2017 Books We're Most Excited About Right Now" "Sudjic is masterful in jumping around the timeline, teasing out what we know is soon to come...I loved this book."—Arianna Rebolini, TINY LETTER "A novel about online obsession in an unnervingly opaque and anonymous digital age...Sudjic’s compulsive debut charts the depths of desperation and torment to which humans can be pushed in a warped effort to find connection."—SHEERLUXE, "The Books to Read Before Anyone Else Does" “Olivia Sudjic has treated the world with a dark, thrilling first novel… a brooding tale of obsession in the internet age, and a promising debut from a budding writer.”—LARGEHEARTED BOY "A powerful and original novel—very enjoyable."—Diana Athill "I loved [Sympathy]. It was brilliant, compelling, beautifully written and deeply disturbing. I think about the changes I have seen in society in the last twenty years, caused by the internet underpinning our lives, and I feel discomfort. [Sudjic] captured something important."—Martha Lane Fox "In this unbelievably accomplished first novel, Olivia Sudjic creates a narrator whose compelling voice is timeless, even as her obsessions and the tools she uses to satisfy them are up-to-the-minute modern. At once a riveting mystery and a literary tour de force, Sympathy had me spellbound from the first page to the last."—Emily Gould, author of Friendship "Getting to know someone has always been a thorny affair. With the addition of personal devices, the line between bonding and surveillance has become freakishly blurred. Sympathy is a mind-bending novel that skillfully depicts the bizarre interplay of technology and intimacy with a story that is compassionate, funny, and incredibly alarming."—Claire-Louise Bennett, author of Pond “Olivia Sudjic elegantly explores the warped world of intimacies formed online—and how quickly those intimacies derail. Global in scope, as subtle as it is suspenseful, Sympathy is an extraordinary debut.”—Idra Novey, author of Ways to Disappear "The thoughtful, intelligent and aptly named Sympathy is an ever-expanding map of the perils of internet life and takes us on a series of coiling emotional tumbles through the rabbit holes and wormholes between URL and IRL, with a heartbreakingly modern New York Alice trying simultaneously to hold on to reality and to discover her own humanity."—Louisa Young, author of The Heroes’ Welcome and others "An impressive debut. Complex, crisp and highly topical."—Vesna Goldsworthy, author of Gorsky and Chernobyl Strawberries
A first-time novelist considers identity and obsession in the digital age.Alice Hare is no longer quite herself—not that she ever had much of a self to begin with. Having been abandoned by her father, she has no one but her mother, a woman who is possessive, secretive, and manipulative. As she tries to piece together her own history, Alice becomes fixated on the period of her life she and her parents spent in Japan. A baby at the time, she has no memories of this sojourn, so she's free to invent. Eventually, this attempt to fabricate an identity turns into an intense fascination with the author Mizuko Himura, whom Alice comes to know in real life after stalking her via social media. This would make a great premise for a thriller, but it's quite evident Sudjic has more literary ambitions. The result is a story that's hard to follow even though it moves at an incredibly slow pace. One difficulty is that it moves around in time, and disparate episodes don't build on each other so much as they expose how much the reader doesn't know. This might make stylistic sense for a novel about a young woman tortured by the lacunae in her own life, but it's dissatisfying and disorienting. For example, the novel begins with Alice being shut out by Mizuko, and then it shifts into a long stretch dominated by letters from Alice's paternal grandmother. We learn about Alice's gap year in Japan after she graduated from university, and her momentous first evening with Mizuko happens without any description of how and why Alice became infatuated with her. Another example: Alice makes passing mention of her "boyfriend at that time," which comes as a shock since this is not only the first we're hearing of a romantic entanglement of any kind in her life ever, but it's also the first hint that she's made any new relationships at all since her move from England to New York. It doesn't help that Alice's real-world connection to Mizuko relies on a preposterous series of coincidences. An intriguing premise delivered in turgid prose.