• Charles Arrowsmith

Review: The English Understand Wool by Helen DeWitt (LA Times)


New Directions is publishing Helen DeWitt’s new novella, “The English Understand Wool,” as part of a series called “Storybook ND,” promising “the pleasure one felt as a child reading a marvelous book from cover to cover in an afternoon.” Other authors featured in this series of highbrow pocket books include Clarice Lispector, César Aira and László Krasznahorkai, but even on these 60-odd pages alone, the experiment would be a success.


The arrival of a new book by DeWitt, even one in short pants, is cause enough for celebration. They’re one-of-a-kind, as funny-haha as they are funny-peculiar. And, as she demonstrated with her 2018 short-story collection, “Some Trick,” she’s just as brilliant on smaller canvases.


It seems unkind to spoil the sleight-of-hand pleasures of “The English Understand Wool,” but in brief: Marguerite, a 17-year-old raised in Marrakech and tutored in the ways of high culture and haute couture by a wealthy French mother and distant English father, finds herself abandoned one day at an expensive London hotel. Into her suite, instead of Maman, comes a detective bearing surprising news. Overnight, she becomes a person of international interest, and when she’s offered $2.2 million for the rights to a book about her life, she must figure out how to survive in a treacherous world of editors, agents and lawyers.


For the full review, visit The Los Angeles Times.

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