Jonathan Buckley

French paperback with flaps, 200 pages
Published 28 March 2024

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Curtis Doyle, a self-made businessman and art collector, has vanished from his palatial home in the Scottish Highlands. In the wake of his disappearance, the woman who worked as his gardener is interviewed for a possible film about her employer. A work of strange and intoxicating immediacy, exploring wealth, the art world, and the intimacy and distance between social classes, Tell is a probing and complex examination of the ways in which we make stories of our own lives and of other people’s.

‘Buckley has once again staged an absorbing debate: a philosophical refusal of narrative linearity that is replete with stories; a constellation of episodes that does not tell the whole tale.’
Richard Robinson, Guardian

‘Buckley’s format … yields great rewards. It allows the gardener, as she tells her boss’s life story, to jump from episode to episode and character to character without the structural impositions of a conventional plot. And her voice, for the most part, is as natural and vivid as real voices are…. And, even if that story never builds to anything greater than the sum of its anecdotes, many of those anecdotes are rather wonderful: thumbnail-sketches of characters who briefly pass through, potted histories, family myths, jokes, reflections on a life lived in proximity to greatness. Tell is one of the best new novels I’ve read in a while.’
— Benjamin Markovitz, Telegraph

‘Given that so many of Buckley’s novels are concerned with ideas of memory, selfhood and storytelling, this is hardly new territory for him. Yet the interview conceit in Tell makes it feel fresh, the withholding of interiority requiring an unusual engagement. Don’t take the conversational prose at face value; underneath it lies a whole other set of mysteries besides Curtis’s. Pay attention and you’ll find them.’
George Cochrane, Financial Times

‘Always well crafted, this novel is engaging in parts and digressive in others, which adds to its realism, capturing how people chatter their way down alleys, rarely hewing to the main road of a tale…. The buildup in Tell is perpetual, a sense that an explanation must be coming. But the author diverges from expectations and converges on reality, where remembering is not the same as understanding. Abruptly, someone may just disappear, and all that remains is the sight of a figure wandering across a bridge — no splash heard, just the fading ripples of “why.”’
Tom Rachman, New York Times

‘[T]he gardener’s voice is companionable and persuasive, and, as she speaks, the sound comes in from all around. All of this adds up to a rich and satisfying portrait … and a fascinating exploration of what it means to tell stories about our lives.’
David Annand, Times Literary Supplement

‘Buckley … asks readers to think about how and why stories are told. This self-reflexivity results in a thought-provoking, artfully constructed narrative enriched by the mysteries that expand and proliferate throughout. It’s a deliciously fraught tour de force.’
Publishers Weekly, starred review

Tell is absorbing and sweeps along, leaving gaps that are filled in later as stories overlap and the narrator’s memory of events and people moves around, following the natural ramble of conversation rather than an unfolding plot with red herrings. That this conversation feels real is a testament to Buckley’s craft, which maintains the impression of spontaneity as it moves towards a climax that is endlessly deferred.’
Brooke Boland, Sydney Morning Herald

‘[A] riveting thriller that sweeps you in from the off…. Buckley’s prose is unpretentious and engrossing, weaving in a constant sense of foreboding that proves irresistible.’
— Martha Alexander, AnOther Magazine

‘A novel about the nature of storytelling, and who gets to tell and shape them.’
— Kirkus

Tell, the remarkable new novel by Jonathan Buckley … is concerned with assessment and measurement. Any sort of precision, it suggests, is fundamentally at odds with the business of storytelling…. Buckley has succeeded in developing an aesthetic of slightness: his is writing designed to slip by unobtrusively, marked by hesitations and ellipses. He gives the reader glancing versions of a character or event while questioning the possibility of telling a story at all.’
— Julia Jordan, Literary Review

Praise for Jonathan Buckley

‘Exactly why Buckley is not already revered and renowned as a novelist in the great European tradition remains a mystery that will perhaps only be addressed at that final godly hour when all the overlooked authors working in odd and antique modes will receive their just rewards.’
— Ian Sansom, Times Literary Supplement

‘Buckley’s fiction is subtle and fastidiously low-key … every apparently loose thread, when tugged, reveals itself to be woven into the themes [and] gets better the more you allow it to settle in your mind.’
— Michel Faber, Guardian

‘Few writers manage to conjure such raw unease as Jonathan Buckley … completely compelling.’
— Adrian Turpin, Financial Times

‘Why isn’t Jonathan Buckley better known? His novel of love, death and melancholy comedy, The Great Concert of the Night, is captivating.’
— John Banville

Jonathan Buckley is a writer and editor from the West Midlands, now living in Brighton. In 2015 he won the BBC National Short Story Award for ‘Briar Road’, and he is a regular contributor to the Times Literary SupplementTell is his twelfth novel. His previous novels were published by Sort Of Books in the UK, and NYRB in the US. Tell was the joint winner of the 2022 Novel Prize, a global, biennial award for a book-length work of literary fiction written in English, and was selected from close to 1,000 submissions.