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The Book…According to Graeme Macrae Burnet

‘I recognise a lot of myself in the behaviours he describes.’

Graeme Macrae Burnet’s Case Study has been one of the most anticipated novels of the year, and with good reason – we thoroughly recommend you get a copy as soon as possible! We caught up with Graeme to talk about the books that have inspired him and his work.


Case Study
By Graeme Macrae Burnet
Published by Saraband


The book as . . . memory. What is your first memory of books and reading?

I think it’s of a picture book, Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Wildlife or something like. On one page was a full colour photograph of the wide open mouth of a snake. This terrified me and I remember throwing the book across the room. But I kept sneaking back to take another peek.


The book as . . . your work. Tell us about your latest book Case Study. What did you want to explore in writing this book?

Well, the only things I set out to explore when I’m writing a novel are the characters and the milieu. In the case of Case Study the central character is a rather unworldly young woman who believes that a radical psychotherapist named Collins Braithwaite has driven her sister to suicide, so she presents herself as a client to Braithwaite under an assumed identity. Collins Braithwaite is a charismatic, somewhat monstrous figure, who inhabits the London counter-cultural scene of 1960s London.


The book as . . . inspiration. What is your favourite book that has informed how you see yourself?

In preparation for writing Case Study, I re-read R.D. Laing’s The Divided Self. It’s a book that I find tremendously insightful, in particular in relation to the way we present different personas (or false selves as he would have it) to the world. I recognise a lot of myself in the behaviours he describes.


 The book as . . . object. What is your favourite beautiful book?

I’m very fond of my hardback edition of Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis. I love the simplicity and poetry of her almost childlike black and white drawings. It’s definitely the book I’ve most often given as a gift.


The book as . . . rebellion. What is your favourite book that felt like it revealed a secret truth to you?

John Newsinger’s The Blood Never Dried, which describes a number of unsavoury episodes in Britain’s colonial past. It was published in 2006, but in an era of increasing jingoism and nostalgia it feels like a very necessary book.


The book as . . . a destination. What is your favourite book set in a place unknown to you?

St Petersburg drips from its every page of Crime and Punishment. I’ve never been there, but I feel that I’ve walked the every street that Raskolnikov walks, crammed myself into his tiny attic room and got sozzled in its grotty bars.


The book as . . . technology. What has been your favourite reading experience off the page?

I think reading Sorley MacLean’s poem Hallaig* on the plaque near the eponymous cleared village on Raasay is a pretty moving experience.

* in Seamus Heaney’s translation


The book as . . . the future. What are you looking forward to reading next?

A couple of things. I have a proof copy of Catherine Simpson’s new book One Body. I loved her memoir When I Had a Little Sister. She has the ability to write about the saddest things while always retaining a sense of humour. Also a book I picked up solely on the basis of its brilliant title: The Standardization of Demoralization Procedures by Jennifer Hoffman.


Case Study by Graeme Macrae Burnet is published by Saraband, priced £14.99.

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