SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2020 BOOKER PRIZE
A NEW YORK TIMES EDITORS' CHOICE
A GUARDIAN SUMMER READING CHOICE
‘A new kind of campus novel . . . Taylor endows his narrative with the precision of science and the intimacy of memoir.’ -- The New Yorker
‘A tender, deeply-felt, perfectly-paced novel about solitude and society, sexuality and race.’ -- Colm Tóibín
Wallace has spent his summer in the lab breeding a strain of microscopic worms. He is four years into a biochemistry degree at a lakeside Midwestern university, a life that’s a world away from his childhood in Alabama.
His father died a few weeks ago, but Wallace didn’t go back for the funeral, and he hasn’t told his friends Miller, Yngve, Cole and Emma. For reasons of self-preservation, he has become used to keeping a wary distance even from those closest to him. But, over the course of one blustery end-of-summer weekend, the destruction of his work and a series of intense confrontations force Wallace to grapple with both the trauma of the past, and the question of the future.
Deftly zooming in and out of focus, Real Life is a deeply affecting story about the emotional cost of reckoning with desire, and overcoming pain.
‘This extraordinary debut is a manual for life that I wish I’d had sooner.’ -- Naoise Dolan, author of Exciting Times
'Extraordinary, brilliant, claustrophobic, tightly wound, heartbreaking. I do not have enough words to describe how I loved this book.' -- Daisy Johnson, author of Everything Under
'A stunning debut . . . There is delicacy in the details of working in a lab full of microbes and pipettes that dances across the pages like the feet of a Cunningham dancer: pure, precise poetry.' -- New York Times
‘Psychologically compelling, incisively satirical, told in a muted style that nevertheless accesses a full emotional range, this is a brilliant book, worthy of a wide audience.’ Observer
‘With the rigour of the laboratory, Taylor wields scalpel-like prose, putting human behaviours under the microscope.’ Financial Times
‘Taylor is a masterful observer, his details of everything from a tennis match to sex and dissections both clinically and exquisitely precise.’ Telegraph
‘With its icily cool sentences, mysterious tonal shifts and determinedly open ending, Taylor’s novel is a curiously liquid thing, with troubling, opaque depths.’ Guardian
‘An elegant take on the “campus novel” and a deeply moving study of race, grief and desire.’ Sunday Times