What You Could Have Won

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UPC: 9781911508861
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Authors: Rachel Genn
  • Publisher : And Other Stories (November 3, 2020)
  • Language: : English
  • Paperback : 276 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 1911508865
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1911508861

Fame is the only thing worth having. Love is temporary brain damage. Or so thinks Henry Sinclair, a failing psychiatrist, whose career-breaking discovery has been pinched by a supervisor smelling of nipple grease and hot-dog brine. An emotional miser and manipulator par excellence, desperate for the recognition he’s certain his genius deserves, Henry claws his way into the limelight by transforming his girlfriend―a singer-in-ascendance, beloved for her cathartically raw performances―into a drug experiment. As he systematically works to reinforce feelings of worthlessness while at the same time feeding off Astrid’s fame, and as Astrid collapses deeper into dependence, what emerges is a two-sided toxic relationship: the bullying instincts of a man shrunk by an industry where bullying is currency, and the peculiar strength of a star more comfortable offloading her talent than owning her brilliance. Pinging between their apartment in New York (where they watch endless episodes of The Sopranos), a nudist campsite in Greece (where the tantalizingly handsome Gigi thwacks octopuses into the sand), and a celebrity rehab facility in Paris (founded by the cassock-wearing and sex-scandal plagued ‘artist’ Hypno Ray), What You Could Have Won is a relationship born of regrettable events, and a novel about female resilience in the face of social control.


“Exuberant, limber, sexy, incandescent, frenetic, addictive.”―Joanna Walsh

“Every page hums with incisive detail, black wit and hard truth.”―Sara Baume

“Sensuous, fraught-languorous, and wholly compelling: Genn's novel is a triumph of wit, stylish prose and observation. I loved it.”―Eley Williams

“Genn brings light to the darker sides of love, writing with sensitivity and empathy about fame, desire and resilience. Intricately plotted and delicately written, What You Could Have Won is subtle, yet sharp.”―Juliet Jacques

“Spectacular, dizzying, utterly addictive: regret, desire, hopeless love, searing wit. As one protagonist says: 'a good story is a good story because it makes you its own.' Genn's novel completely claimed me.”―Helen Mort

“How can I write something that does justice to the unexpected turns, the dazzling intricacies, the humor and the heartbreak and the poetic description of this novel? I can’t – I’d better ask Rachel Genn to do it for me.”―Andrew McMillan

“Rachel Genn takes up her tender knife again, to lay open the complexities of a relationship entangled in both public and private power. What You Could Have Won is a fiery, irresistible trip through music, drugs and personal agency.”―M. John Harrison

“Imagine William Gibson and M. John Harrison had been commissioned to collaborate on a novel about sex, drugs, rock & roll and The Sopranos.”―Nicholas Royle

Praise for The Cure

 “Startlingly tender.”―Time Out

“Genn’s narrative voice proves unusually nimble in its ironic, sympathetic shifts between the players in this compact saga. The Cure yields a surprising tensile strength for such a slim volume.”―The Herald (Scotland)

About the Author

Rachel Genn is a neuroscientist, artist and writer who has written two novels: The Cure (2011) and her US debut, What You Could Have Won (2020). She was a Leverhulme Artist-in-Residence (2016), creating The National Facility for the Regulation of Regret, which spanned installation art, VR and film (2016-17). She has written for Granta, 3:AM Magazine, and Hotel, and is working on Hurtling, a hybrid collection of essays about the neuroscience, art and abjection of artistic reverie. She’s also working on a binaural experience exploring paranoia, and a collection of non-fiction about fighting and addiction to regret. Genn works at the Manchester Writing School and the School of Digital Arts, both at Manchester Metropolitan University, and lives in Sheffield, England.