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Levitation for Beginners

Hardcover / ISBN-13: 9781408707234

Price: £20

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‘This is a novel about everything and nothing, sour and melancholy, with elements of sheer comedy and almost unbearable beauty… The older Deborah reflects that “I’m surprised any of us lived to tell the tale”, and if this subtle book has a message, it is how alien and yet how relatable the past remains’ Guardian Book of the Day

‘A glorious writer… witty, well-observed and full of heart’ Irish Independent

‘A bittersweet, nostalgia-tinged adventure… with a steadily growing voltage’ Daily Mail

‘A deliciously unsettling read’ Clare Chambers, author of Small Pleasures

‘Lovely’ Patrick Gale

A sharp eye and keen wit are brought to bear on the secrets and lies of a small rural community – secrets and lies that may prove deadly.

It’s 1972 and ten-year-old Deborah is living a ten-year-old life: butterscotch angel delight and Raleigh chopper bikes, and Clunk Click, and Crackajack and Jackanory, Layla and the Bee Gees, flares and ponchos.

But new girl Sarah-Jayne breezes into school, pretty as a picture and full of gossip and speculation, as well as unlikely but thrilling stories about levitation. The other girls are dazzled but Deborah is wary and keeps her distance. That same week, eighteen-year-old brickie Sonny turns up on her doorstep with a stray tortoise and begins an unlikely friendship with her young widowed mum. That’s bad enough, Deborah thinks, but then Sonny starts work on a site opposite the school and Sarah-Jayne decides he’s the latest love of her life. Nothing escapes Sarah-Jayne, and Deborah fears what she’ll make of her mum. It’s good to be different, her mum often says; but not, Deborah knows, too different.

So, Deborah changes tactics, keeping her friends close and her enemy closer, even stepping up for some of Sarah-Jayne’s levitation sessions. Then she’s invited to Sarah-Jayne’s lovely house, where she meets her charming family and encounters Sarah-Jayne’s big sister’s fiance, Max, which is when she senses that all isn’t quite as it seems.

Readers say:

Suzannah Dunn is a master at dissecting the relationships that are closer than “just friends”, those love affairs we have with our oldest friends, the attachments we formed before we were old enough to rationalise our preferences – the friends of our blood and bone. This book is a subtle, elegant and creepily powerful examination of what happens to one such friendship’ Five star reader review for Venus Flaring

I love this book and have read it and re-read it many times. It is so evocative of being a teenage girl in the late eighties and yet it somehow manages to be timeless. It perfectly captures the sense of self-importance that we all have as a teenager’ Five star reader review for Blood Sugar


Brilliantly articulated and often piercingly sad, Dunn's characters find themselves caught up in what may today be termed quarter-life crises - they are unsettled, dissatisfied; prone to despair, to jealousy, to falling unsuitably in love, to deep, unnavigable loss...Dunn's new novel, Levitation for Beginners, returns to the extreme psychological landscapes of these early works... This is a novel about everything and nothing, sour and melancholy, with elements of sheer comedy and almost unbearable beauty... The older Deborah reflects that "I'm surprised any of us lived to tell the tale", and if this subtle book has a message, it is how alien and yet how relatable the past remains
Guardian, Book of the Day
On the surface this is a quiet story about life in a small village in 1970s England (if you grew up in the 70s you'll be howling at the period details) but it's so much more than that. I've always loved Suzannah's writing and the skilful way she creates such complexity in her characters and shows all the emotion and struggle going on beneath the surface. It's what she does best, I think, and this novel is a masterclass in building quiet tension and atmosphere without BIG PLOT and melodrama. A deceptively clever, unsettling and chilling read about the secrets and lies at the heart of a small community that feels incredibly, devastatingly true
Katherine Clements
Her dissections of the quiet hell of family life are splendid, and she has an absolutely convincing voice of her own
Malcolm Bradbury, praise for Darker Days Than Usual
A bittersweet, nostalgia-tinged adventure, saturated in contemporary pop culture, with a steadily growing voltage from slow-build jeopardy and regular jolts of irony in Deborah's hindered understanding of her life as a child
Daily Mail
Levitation for Beginners transported me right back to my '70s schooldays. The clannishness and micro-cruelties of 10-year-old girls were brilliantly authentic. I especially liked the innuendo and half-grasped truths that filter down to Deborah from the adult world and the slowly building unease. I loved that nothing was over-explained; it all made for a deliciously unsettling read
Clare Chambers, bestselling author of Small Pleasures
I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED Levitation for Beginners by Suzannah Dunn. It's so brilliant, and sinister and well-observed. It reminds me of Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood but with something magical all of its own
Victoria Gosling, author of Bliss & Blunder
A glorious writer... witty, well-observed and full of heart...This book is filled with humour, emanating chiefly from Deborah's asides and her mother's acerbic, short-and-sweet judgments of others. It's very, very funny but Dunn is not playing just for laughs. There is a profound authenticity to every word spoken, every cultural reference used and every slow piecing together of the true background story of Sarah-Jayne... This is a wonderful, accessible story full of love, memory and the truth
Irish Independent
Compelling power...Dunn shows again her gift for making the ordinary seem extraordinary
The Times, praise for Venus Flaring
Even if your childhood wasn't overshadowed by David Cassidy and Spacehoppers, this evocation of the lethal gossip and antipathies of a provincial primary school shaken by the arrival of a pretty, confident girl who isn't all that she would seem, is sure to stir dark memories. Lovely
Patrick Gale
Powerful and unsettling, Dunn's distinctive voice and knack for observation transported me straight back to my teenage years and had me gripped to the very end
Carly Reagon
All adolescent life is here, lovingly portrayed, captured with breathtaking accuracy. Suzannah Dunn is a gifted writer
The Times, praise for Blood Sugar
If the past is a foreign country where they do things differently, then the Seventies is most certainly on the other side of the world. Whether you lived through that time or not, Levitation for Beginners is all about how it feels to be in that awkward age between childhood and adolescence, your 11+ and grammar school. Or secondary mod. Looking back from adulthood, Deborah is able to unpick the mysteries of grown-up secrets and relationships that were truly baffling to her at the time. Packed with period detail, this is a story that is alternately affectionate, nostalgic, chilling and mysterious. Like travelling back in time with the Doctor. Jon Pertwee, of course!
Julie Ma