A bitingly honest, darkly funny debut about love, sex, power and desire, by a major new British talent
Anna is struggling to afford life in London as she trains to be a singer. During the day, she vies to succeed against her course mates with their discreet but inexhaustible streams of cultural capital and money, and in the evening she sings jazz at a bar in the City to make ends meet.
It’s there that she meets Max, a financier fourteen years older than her. Over the course of one winter, Anna’s intoxication oscillates between her hard-won moments on stage, where she can zip herself into the skin of her characters, and nights spent with Max in his glass-walled flat overlooking the city.
But Anna’s fledgling career demands her undivided attention, and increasingly – whether he necessarily wills it or not – so does Max…
'Tender, devastating, witty. And deeply true. Sweetbitter meets Normal People' Meg Mason, author of Sorrow and Bliss
'Imogen Crimp captures the glittering thrill of being young and choosing your own life with a dark, unflinching undercurrent of desire, power and control' Jessica Andrews, author of Saltwater
'In A Very Nice Girl, Imogen Crimp explores complicated relationships, the creative life, and the challenges of living in London in your twenties, with precision and subtlety. Touching on feminism, power, finances, and the pleasures and dangers of a new relationship, this book is an assured debut' Claire Fuller, author of Unsettled Ground
'Transfixing from the start, A Very Nice Girl steals the show. Gorgeous prose, bone-dry humor and brutally shrewd observations make Imogen Crimp’s debut sing in this perilous love story about a talented young woman learning to wield her voice. Intimate and intoxicating, A Very Nice Girl absolutely dazzles' Rebecca Dorey-Stein, author of Rock the Boat
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Average rating from 33 members
This book is tender, profound and devastating, whilst being witty, droll and unflinching. An incredibly exciting new author.
Sharp, witty, and oh so honest, let me introduce you to A Very Nice Girl. A Very Nice Girl by Imogen Crimp plunges us into the life of Anna, a young Opera singer, as she balances her love for singing with the devastating fact that it’s hard to make a living out of the life she wants to have. Living in a house with her best friend Laurie, Anna spends her time evading the judgemental stares of her landlords, going to classes she does and doesn’t like, singing at a hotel bar, and just generally trying to exist. Then Anna meets Max, a wealthy, older, and slightly closed-off man, and she agrees to go to dinner with him despite the fact that she doesn’t really like him all too much. A Very Nice Girl is not a love story, but Anna desperately wants it to be. It is painfully honest in how Anna is constantly lying to herself about the life she is leading. The truth is technically subtext, but Crimp masterfully makes it clear for the reader to see. Crimp successfully weaved me into Anna’s life until I absolutely had to know how her story ended; just as how Anna had to, as well. In fact, and I’ll try to avoid spoilers here, it has one of those great book endings. I desperately wanted the story to continue, but, as I scrolled through the empty white pages, I found myself realising that the story had to end where it did. Crimp’s writing style is fresh and all-consuming. She doesn’t use speech marks, but it’s not confusing. Each character is distinct, their voice their own, and you’re never left wondering who’s saying what in a conversation. And the descriptions that emerge when Anna is singing are mesmerising. I understood her nerves, her frustrations, and her joys instantly. I’ve never been a singer, never seen an opera, but through Anna, Crimp invites us into this world until we feel just as passionately about it as Anna does. In fact, had I known she was an opera singer before starting, I might not have read this book. It’s totally changed my opinions on this form of storytelling and now I desperately want to see one. Anna herself is such an interesting protagonist. Told in startlingly present first-person, she’s a new sort of unreliable narrator. Anna doesn't hold things back because she wants the reader to have a different opinion of events, but because she herself is blind to what she is suffering. There are moments in this book where you just want to step into the story and shake her, clean the etch-a-sketch of its mess until she can see clearly where her life is headed if she doesn’t stop and re-think. All the side characters are blisteringly real, too. Some may appear stereotypical but that’s just because Anna doesn’t let herself see anyone in 3D. She doesn’t have the energy, frankly, and it’s fascinating to see people emerge as the story goes on. Tara was a particular favourite character of mine, as well as, eventually, Laurie. It’s been a while since I’ve read a book that has consumed me and left my brain thinking in the same way as the protagonist, and this book completely infected me. I can’t wait to read the next thing Imogen Crimp has in store, and I urge you all to read this when you can. 5 out 5 stars.
This is by far one of the most powerful and evocative coming of age tales that I’ve read. A Very Nice Girl takes us into Anna’s life over the course of a year. Anna is struggling to find her feet living in London, whilst working hard to develop her fledgling singing career as a grad student at a prestigious conservatory. It is through one of her singing jobs that she meets Max, a man 14 years her senior. Anna’s focus and ambition is great, but her career demands her full attention. The question, however, is who or what will gain her attention and focus, and what does she stand to win or lose in the process? This book is so raw and evocative. Such is the power of Imogen Crimp’s writing that you come to feel so acutely everything that Anna herself is feeling. I felt entirely drawn into her world and her experiences, both the highs and the lows. It all felt incredibly real. Crimp’s writing is razor sharp, tender and utterly devastating in places. I was particularly fascinated by the ways in which the different characters and operas that Anna performed were so carefully weaved in to the story. It was like holding up a mirror to her own experiences, but one that was distorted, never showing the whole picture. This book is quite simply a stunning debut. I couldn’t get Anna out of my head whilst I was reading it and I know I won’t soon forget this book.
Wow - this was a totally intoxicating read. I was completely pulled into the life of Anna, an aspiring opera singer who struggles to balance her future career with her relationship with Max, an older, wealthier man. This is the kind of book I had to carefully schedule time to read because I knew when I started, I wouldn't want to stop. It's Conversations With Friends meets Exciting Times, yet also so much more. My favourite read of the month by far and maybe my favourite of the year.
This book was brilliantly written! Anna is a young woman who makes a move to London to peruse her ambition of becoming an opera singer. But this story demonstrates the not so glamorous life of struggling to make ends meet in order to go after what you love. Anna then meets Max, a wealthy businessman who turns her world upside down and slowly starts to make her doubt everything she knows she is. Exploring themes such as toxic relationships, gaslighting and depression. Imogen Crimp’s writing is fresh and powerful and this debut novel was simply stunning!
Ooft. This book is very close to perfection for me. It’s deep, it feels real, its characters are flawed and relatable and heart-twinging, the writing is stunning and the plot keeps you guessing the entire time. I already miss it now that I’ve finished it. Anna is used to speaking with many men doing what she does - singing evening jazz at a hotel bar. But Max’s cold enticing conversation hits her differently. The combination of deep curiosity and unexpected addiction is so real and alluring to read. Max is a frustratingly closed book - it keeps you guessing (and worrying) about what he’s hiding - as Anna falls harder and harder in love. Anna’s other relationships are just as brilliant to peer into. She’s very close with her blunt best friend who she shares a room (and bed) with, she has an exhausting relationship with her parents and her singer friends are competitive more than supportive. It all makes for truly great reading. Favourite quote: “…he spread his fingers out on my stomach, round my neck, on the insides of my thighs - his hands on me were erasure, wiping my skin clean, and soon my mind was dark and my body empty, only the parts he was touching lit up.” Thank you to NetGalley for the arc. A Very Nice Girl will be available from 3rd February 2022.
I'm not sure there's a way to articulate how this book made me feel. It's the sort of book that you experience rather than read; for the day it took to read it, it really did feel like I was an opera singer in her mid-twenties, entangled in a toxic relationship with a man who might be awful, or might be wonderful, or might be some entirely human combination of the two. I'm rather glad I'm not, all things considered. Imogen Crimp is one of those writers whose work seems entirely effortless; she can craft a simile unlike anyone I've ever read before, and her observations about people are so incisive and insightful that you wish you'd written them yourself. I was fortunate enough to be able to read extracts from this novel in draft form back in its early days, and it speaks to her talent that there are turns of phrase in here which remain from the earliest versions. They're just that good. The thing that really sets this book above other novels about toxic relationships is that it's genuinely never clear whether Anna is imagining all the ways in which Max is terrible, if he's just terrible for her rather than in general, or if he really is a complete c-word, as Anna's friend likes to call him. Much of his behaviour, told through the unreliable lens of Anna's narration, seems targeted and insidious, but it's also clear that Anna maps her own thoughts about herself onto his behaviour. She acknowledges this herself. For that reason, you could read this same book over and over again and pick up on all the subtleties and nuances a thousand different ways. There's no villain here, unless there is. This book is going to win every single award going, and it should. It's frankly one of the best books I've read in years, and it's going to linger for a while.
Imogen Crimp is an astounding new talent, and I can't wait to read whatever she writes next. I loved this peek behind the curtain of the road to becoming a profressional opera singer, taken alongside all the other trials and tribulations of one's twenties. Anna is character you're internally screaming at to get her act together, to not throw it all away, all whilst remembering your own similar wobbly moments. Its a devastating, sharp read, shot through with moments of humour and wit that I won't soon forget.
A VERY NICE GIRL is an enormously enjoyable read. I see from the blurb that the author is described as a major 'new' talent. That Imogen Crimp is talented is beyond dispute - but the 'new' part surprised me in that this is such an accomplished piece of work. I would have assumed that whoever wrote this had several titles under their belt. There are so many things to love about A VERY NICE GIRL it feels almost disingenuous trying to point them out when what I really want to say is make sure you get your hands on a copy and see for yourself. You’ll be engulfed and delighted as perfect sentences roll out one after the other, for pages and chapters and sections. The storyline (young woman comes to make it in London and falls for older man - is he all he seems or not?) feels sparkling and new in Ms Crimp's hands. In part, this is down to the eviscerating honesty, surprising wisdom, and endless wit on display here. The characterisation is breathtaking. I kept trying to work out what was making this tick along beautifully and at one point it occurred to me that a lot of the conflict in play is simply down to the fact that everyone is acting their age. This might sound like a simple point but the nature of ages-stages in life underpins the entire piece and it struck me that Ms Crimp quite simply nails it. Something else that is exquisitely handled is the setting – a conservatoire of music – where the central character, Anna is studying. Anna is a soprano who spends her days in the world or opera and (some) of her nights crooning out jazz. Not knowing anything about what it feels like to be a singer – let alone an opera singer – I was completely enthralled with Anna’s inner world and her observations on what it takes to fulfil her art. I fully expect that A VERY NICE GIRL will be on all the best prize lists this year. You just watch. With thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for letting me see an advance copy of this novel.