Rachel Genn

What You Could Have Won

‘I wrote this book because I didn’t want Amy Winehouse to be dead.’

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.

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Subscribe to our books by Monday 8th June 2020 and you will receive your copy of What You Could Have Won in September 2020, before its official November publication. All subscribers are thanked by name in the books. Rachel Genn will – pandemic permitting – sign subscriber copies.

Here’s Rachel Genn discussing lockdown, What You Could Have Won, and growing up in a butcher’s shop on Two Minute Stories’ podcast. Short of time? She starts talking about her novel What You Could Have Won at 18 minutes, 20 seconds.

Print status: Available
Author: Rachel Genn
Original language: English
Format: B-format paperback
Publication date: 3 November 2020
ISBN: 9781911508861
Ebook ISBN: 9781911508878
Availability: World English
Number of pages: 240


Sarah Gilmartin
Irish Times

[Genn] shows a fearlessness in her writing that is matched by her desire to go deep into the ugly parts of human nature . . . The hardship of addiction and the mental drain of celebrity are vividly rendered.

Fiona Sturges
The Guardian

Bracingly caustic.

Emily Hay
The Skinny

Genn has woven a deft tale of toxicity, both in substances and relationships, which keeps the reader hooked and discombobulated in equal measure.

Alastair Mabbott
The Herald

A study of addiction that’s dark and knotty, but lightened by flashes of compassion and wit.

Rebecca Hussey
Foreword Reviews

What You Could Have Won is a lively, bracing novel about the perils of attraction; it brims with insights into physical and emotional dependency.

Joanna Walsh

'Exuberant, limber, sexy, incandescent, frenetic, addictive.'

Sara Baume

‘Every page hums with incisive detail, black wit and hard truth.’

Eley Williams

‘Sensuous, fraught-languorous, and wholly compelling: Genn's novel is a triumph of wit, stylish prose and observation. I loved it.’

Juliet Jacques

'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.'

Helen Mort

‘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.’

Andrew McMillan

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

M John Harrison

‘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.'

Nicholas Royle

‘Imagine William Gibson and M John Harrison had been commissioned to collaborate on a novel about sex, drugs, rock & roll and The Sopranos.’

Holly Pester

‘The split-screen dynamic of this battle of wills is an electrifying joy to read unlike anything else around, with the best placed squid ink incident and Sopranos boxset plot devices ever.’

Katharine Towers

‘Genn's sentences bristle with enjoyably reckless energy, in a power struggle rendered with forensic verve.’

Kirkus Reviews

‘Genn, a neuroscientist and artist, displays strength in her intensity and scene painting, like Astrid’s performance at a substance-fueled gig or the blackly comic description of three naked men attempting to revive her after she chokes on a doughnut. A playful, challenging cautionary tale.’

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.’ Herald Scotland

‘I loved The Cure. Rachel Genn offers a new and convincing take on the experience of the Irish migrant worker, evoking in exhilarating dialogue the multi-ethnic Babel of contemporary London. This is a story of family secrets, fierce male friendships and slow-burning love.’ Joe Treasure

‘The Geiger counter of Rachel Genn’s prose moves over her characters' souls with forensic precision, detecting the minute shifts and vacillations that take place below the level of consciousness - those very things that make us human.’ Kathy Towers, Seamus Heaney Centre prize winning poet