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Crudo by Olivia Laing

Crudo by Olivia Laing
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Olivia Laing’s first novel (after three acclaimed non-fiction books) is set in the “apocalyptic summer of 2017”, said Johanna Thomas-Corr in the London Evening Standard. Its narrator, Kathy, is based closely on Laing herself, but fused with the “countercultural poet” Kathy Acker. Written in seven weeks, and referencing the Grenfell Tower fire, neo-Nazi marches in the US and North Korean missile tests, Crudo (meaning “raw” in Italian) is an attempt to “capture how our lives have been accosted by the 24-hour rolling news cycle”. It’s “potty”: first I “loathed” it, then I “rather liked” it.

After the “satisfying thickness of Laing’s non-fiction”, this sparsely plotted novel “perhaps feels a little thin”, said Tessa Hadley in The Guardian. Nonetheless, Laing succeeds in “rendering on the page the texture of a very contemporary sensibility”. Crudo may indeed serve up a “raw chunk of now”, but many of its references already seem dated, said Claire Lowdon in The Sunday Times. Tedious in its political outlook and full of “name-dropping”, this is a novel written for “those in the gang”.