Gender Theory

'A blazing new voice in Scottish fiction'

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Pub Date 6 Jun 2024 | Archive Date 6 Jun 2024

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'An incredible debut from a blazing new voice in Scottish fiction' Image

'Beautifully captures the pain of growing into yourself, and the intensity of all-consuming female friendship' ROSE WILDING

'I inhaled Gender Theory in one intoxicating sitting . . . a powerful and necessary novel' RACHEL DAWSON

You lose your virginity to a boy from your gender theory seminar, and the first person you tell is Ella.

Ella's with you at the party when you first kiss a girl.

And Ella takes you to the hospital the first time you're diagnosed.

Over the next few years you have a string of relationships and jobs, but you can always count on Ella to be there for you - until the drinking and the parties, the hospital visits and late-night calls, blur the lines of your friendship into something unbalanced and fragile, at risk of breaking altogether.

The worst part is you can see it coming. The worst part is you don't know how to stop.

Gender Theory is an incisive, affecting debut about illness, identity and how we care for those around us.

'An incredible debut from a blazing new voice in Scottish fiction' Image

'Beautifully captures the pain of growing into yourself, and the intensity of all-consuming female friendship' ROSE WILDING


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ISBN 9781399812184
PRICE £16.99 (GBP)

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Average rating from 26 members

Featured Reviews

An intimate and honest exploration of love, friendship and sexuality. Madeline Docherty's unique use of language establishes the nature of what it means to grow up and outgrow our environments. The overwhelming nature of friendship can not be overstated in this powerhouse debut novel, as it founds the central narrative for an intense and excruciatingly human read you will not want to look away from.

Thank you to John Murray Press, in partnership with NetGalley, for providing this ARC of 'Gender Theory' by Madeline Docherty.

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4.5 stars, read from beginning to bittersweet end with a knot in my throat and a pit in my stomach. Gender Theory is a raw and very real contemporary litfic novel, with unusual second-person narration that thrusts you into the bloody, beating centre of the protagonist's young adulthood.

It's a bit like every Sally Rooney and Genevieve Novak project ever, with a unique through-line of undiagnosed endometriosis and chronic pain that manages to be both incredibly specific and a shockingly effective stand-in for any and every underreported, untreated woe, particularly ones that predominantly affect women, and (characteristically) | ate it up.

One day I will have grown up enough to stop seeing myself in the complicated, messy, occasionally straight-up nasty female leads of so-called books-about-nothing, but today is not that day.

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Absolutely incredible. I usually find it difficult to connect to characters deeply in shorter books, but this was not the case here. I am still wiping away my tears.

Gender Theory is unique from the first sentence onwards. Surprisingly, it is written with a second person narration, a style that I’m not sure I have actually ever read before. It works absolute wonders. Especially as somebody in their early twenties currently experiencing some of the things our main character does, the narration truly makes you feel like you are her. And that’s bittersweet. The non-chapter, almost stream of consciousness, style that the book is written in all adds to the content of the story itself. I really did feel like I was experiencing every sentence myself. For the writing and construction of the story alone, this book deserves the highest praise. But that’s not all. The story itself, I don’t even really want to say anything about it because I think living it by reading it is so much better, but the book manages to perfectly capture the feeling of being lost, the feelings of change and uncertainty that come with growing up, illness, and finding yourself and your own sexuality. I kept finding myself highlighting whole paragraphs that felt like they were giving voice to feelings and thoughts I have myself experienced. The friendship with Ella is bittersweet and in a lot of ways watching this friendship and all other relationships evolve throughout the book is heartbreaking and painful, you recognise the destructiveness in some of the behaviours and you want to shout no don’t do that and you want to help but you can’t and you know for certain that continuing to read is going to hurt because you can see what’s unfolding. But you also can’t stop reading because it’s beautiful in a way, it characterises human relationships and all of the feelings of not belonging and wrongness and how that can affect your own actions. And you also recognise maybe how you yourself have sometimes fallen into these patterns which inevitably makes reading about it more painful because it’s like the book is telling you look this is where you were an imperfect human acting in flawed ways. And of course at the centre of it all is also a story about Endometriosis and how the lack of research and care that we have as a society shown for health can negatively impact women and expose us to lives filled with so much physical and emotional pain.

This book is truly a work of art. I cannot wait for everyone to get to read it and I sincerely hope that it gets the attention it deserves. Thank you to Netgalley, the publisher and the author for providing me with an advanced copy of the book so I could already experience it

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Heartbreaking and realistic, this is what literary fiction is about and what makes me love about this genre. This author has a way with words and sunk its teeth into me. I won’t be forgetting this book anytime soon.

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I devoured this novel – it is beautifully written and poignant. The reader is taken on a journey of friendship, failed connections, queerness, and chronic illness told through a wonderfully unique writing style. I was sad to finish it and found myself aching for just a few more chapters!

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this was a tender and real read. i felt a rare closeness to the main protagonist, not only because i am close to her in age and am at a stage in my life which feels like everything is up in the air, but also because the author made her voice vulnerable, honest and cutting, writing in a way that i can only compare to stream-of-consciousness.
i highlighted so may passages in my eARC, which i know for a fact i will return to in the future.

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i LOVE the style of this. The second person narrative is not something I experience much (perhaps ever) but i REALLY loved it. Perfectly executed and totally made me feel a part of the story, more so than I already did with its relatability to my personal experience.
Gender Theory explores the trials and tribulations of a messy 20 something navigating her life and relationships. At points it really felt like reading my own diary. The stream of consciousness when discussing the narrators thoughts and feelings surrounding the endo diagnosis was a gut-punch in the best way possible. It was very refreshing to see gyno issues portrayed in such a way, that i felt seen and not so much of a problem to those around me.
This is such an important book and I will be recommending to as many people as possible.

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Gender Theory follows the story of our unnamed main protagonist between Glasgow, Edinburgh, Wales and the north of England, her friendship with Ella and how she navigates her messy life, her relationships, her late-diagnosed endometriosis.

This little gem took me by surprise and I ended up reading it in one sitting. Told in the second person, which was unexpected, refreshing and surprisingly well-mastered, Gender Theory unselfconsciously poses major questions (around female friendship, navigating bisexuality, living with a physical condition that is under diagnosed and shamefully disregarded by many health professional) without imposing any obvious answer, leaving the reader free to think about them.

Gender Theory is full of love and tender, of pain, grief and self-loathing, and I found it particularly relatable on certain subjects. It had me tear up towards the end, which is always a good sign!

I do hope this book gets the attention it deserves.


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