Intelligence Squared Bloomsbury Book Club

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Host: Intelligence Squared Bloomsbury Book Club
Location: Bloomsbury Publishing, 50 Bedford Square, London WC1B 3DP
Speaker: Will Self


Come and discuss Will Self’s most ambitious novel to date with Will and his editor at the offices of Bloomsbury Publishing in Bedford Square.

Umbrella takes up the challenge of Modernism by going back to the source – the industrial madness of World War One, weaving together a dense tapestry of consciousness and lived life across an entire century.

Maverick psychiatrist Zack Busner arrives at Friern Hospital, a vast Victorian mental asylum in North London, under a professional and a marital cloud. He has every intention of avoiding controversy, but then he encounters Audrey Death, a working-class girl from Fulham born in 1890 who has been immured in Friern for decades. 

A socialist, a feminist and a munitions worker at the Woolwich Arsenal, Audrey fell victim to the encephalitis lethargica sleeping sickness epidemic at the end of the First World War and, like one of the subjects in Oliver Sacks’ Awakenings, has been in a coma ever since. Realising that Audrey is just one of a number of post-encephalitics scattered throughout the asylum, Busner becomes involved in an attempt to bring them back to life – with wholly unforeseen consequences.

Radical in its conception, uncompromising in its style, Umbrella is Will Self's most extravagant and imaginative exercise in speculative fiction to date.

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