"Consistently surprising, bitterly funny, and deliciously tense, Sedating Elaine is an absolute trip"
Oh boy did I love this book!
It’s a cliche to compare things to Fleabag, but I’m going to bloody do it anyway because I think there’s a useful similarity here in Winter’s skill for keeping you on the tip of your seat – constantly morphing surreal silliness into poignancy, and dark humour into bittersweetness, and back again. And of course, in its often coarse obsession with sex.
In the opening scenes we meet Frances, on the run from both her angry drug dealer and her horny girlfriend. The tension of her ridiculous scheme to raise funds is soon undercut by the quiet depths of Frances’ despair, loss, and ennui.
Winter writes beautifully and startlingly about love. I lost myself in Frances’ memories of her ex, Adrienne – from her Frances’ obsessive, puppyish crush on her at first meeting, to the moment Adrienne writes her number on a banana and drops it out of a window (inspiring the distinctive cover art) and the relatable pities and aching horrors of their break-up. I often felt a twist of pathos in her subtly switching between viewpoints to never let us rest on our judgements of people: ‘Elaine noticed Frances like she had walked in on fire. Elaine had never believed in love at first sight but, like most people, she secretly longed to be proved wrong’.
It’s no wonder Winter is on the Comedy Women in Print Prize list – not only is the concept itself brilliantly fun, Winter has a knack for embedding actual ‘jokes’ within prose in a way that feels effortless, stylish, and, astonishingly, funny. I don’t know if they’ll work outside of sardonic context, but I was jovially underlining lines like these throughout: ‘Elaine was stupidly, foolishly, hopelessly in love, and as such heard warning bells as the chimes of a future wedding’.
Hook it up to my veins!