Kick The Latch

Kathryn Scanlan


‘This immediate, engrossing immersion in another life and world, so personally and passionately told, is compulsively readable.’ Lydia Davis


Daunt Books Publishing > Fiction

ISBN: 9781914198250

Published January 2023








About one woman’s fine, hard life at the racetrack, Kick the Latch – with its ruthless concision and artful mysteries – is lightning in a bottle

Kathryn Scanlan’s Kick the Latch vividly captures the arc of one woman’s life at the racetrack – the flat land and ramshackle backstretch; the bad feelings and friction; the winner’s circle and the racetrack bar; the fancy suits and fancy boots; and the ‘particular language’ of ‘grooms, jockeys, trainers, racing secretaries, stewards, pony people, hotwalkers, everybody’ – with economy and integrity.

Based on transcribed interviews with Sonia, a horse trainer, the novel investigates form and authenticity in a feat of synthesis reminiscent of Charles Reznikoff’s Testimony. As Scanlan puts it, ‘I wanted to preserve – amplify, exaggerate – Sonia’s idiosyncratic speech, her bluntness, her flair as a storyteller. I arrived at what you could call a composite portrait of a self.’ Whittled down with a fiercely singular artistry, Kick the Latch bangs out of the starting gate and carries the reader on a careening joyride around the inside track.

‘Wonderful . . . an unforgettable, tough, direct voice, brilliantly captured . . . I’d never imagined I’d read and love a book about a mid-west horsetrainer.’ David Nicholls

‘I treated this slim book almost like a holy text at the time I was reading it.’ Ben Pester, Granta’s Best Books of the Year

‘Scanlan’s harsh, funny, beautifully sad novel is unlike any other I’ve read this year – and twice as good.’ Chris Power, Summer Reads, Sunday Times

‘Masterfully  precise . . . Every sentence seems to pull behind it an invisible weight of information and emotion.’ Literary Review

‘Lean, tense . . . bursting with sheer life.’ Lucy Caldwell

‘Terrific . . . Kathryn Scanlan makes the mundane details of everyday life hum with electricity.’ 5 stars, Telegraph

‘Scanlan is a master of the compressed anecdote.’ i 

‘Brimming with life.’ Observer

‘A series of taut, electrifying vignettes . . . by turns exultant and brutal.’ LA Review of Books

‘A triumph.’ Financial Times

‘One of the must reads of the year.’ Radio 4, Open Book

‘An engrossing peek into the world of equestrian sport.’ Big Issue

‘Genius! Future classic, current revelation.’  Amy Key

‘A spare and powerful account of a life with horses.’ New Statesman

‘Scanlan is an expert wielding the pick, chiselling through blocks of material to turn life into art.’ Irish Times

‘Unusual, poetically told…a series of beautifully observed vignettes.’ Daily Mail

Kick the Latch unfolds compellingly. Like any life story there are cruelties and moments of compassion, humour and heartbreak. It is poignant without becoming maudlin.’ The Scotsman

‘A chiselled little gem  . . . about a horse trainer called Sonia and told in her unforgettably downbeat voice. Such poise and economy – I can’t remember a novel about work that’s impressed me so.’  Tim Winton, Books of the Year, Sydney Morning Herald

‘Utterly fresh, shimmery as a dragonfly . . . Ridiculously good.’ Kerri ní Dochartaigh

Kick the Latch performs the trick of turning a life, with its practicalities and speed, into art, and does so with particular charm, will, and intensity.’ Lucie Elven

‘A revelation in its unadorned, unromantic, plain power.’ Andrew McMillan 

‘I was absolutely blown away . . . It’s so much more than a skilled act of ventriloquism, it is a finely-wrought work of art that takes one person’s life and expands it to create something wondrous and universal. The pages I read seemed to capture all that is vital to human existence.’ Tash Aw

Kick the Latch is pure exhilaration. No one works with fineness, with exactitude, with the beating heart of fiction and of life, quite like Kathryn Scanlan.’ Amina Cain

‘Kathryn Scanlan has performed a magical act of empathic ventriloquy in Kick the Latch. This immediate, engrossing immersion in another life and world, so personally and passionately told, is compulsively readable.’ Lydia Davis

‘I have been following Kathryn Scanlan’s original voice for years.  In her new venture—an unusually intimate, clear-eyed portrait of a tough and engaging woman conveyed in revelatory vignettes—every word is essential.’ Amy Hempel

‘As fascinating and formally inventive as we have come to expect.’ LitHub

‘It’s a landscape full of exhausting labor and habitual violence, but also ecstatic devotion and joy . . . Scanlan writes about ordinary life in extraordinary ways by compacting it radically, like pressurizing carbon into diamonds.’ Leslie Jamison

‘Superb, episodic story of horse-racing, told in vignettes of violence, poverty and community. Both niche and precise in the revelation of an ordinary life (Johnson’s Train Dreams, or Seethaler’s A Whole Life) with Lydia Davis’ distillation.’  Sinéad Gleeson

‘Finessing the mundanity of a life and expanding it into the extraordinary… Kick the Latch blew me away.’ The Face

‘To pick up this book is to kick the latch and be rushed away: to feel the rhythm of a life told in moments, chasing an uncertain kind of win.’ Lunate

‘Kick the Latch is an extraordinary act of portraiture. Tender, kind, and told with measured honesty, it gripped me entirely from the first page to the last.’ Jessie Greengrass

‘With this book, Kathryn Scanlan is telling us three things: life is short, it’s worth paying attention, and she’s one hell of a writer.’ Jon McGregor

‘The author—Kathryn Scanlan—wields a mean stiletto for a crop . . . A wonderfully empathic window opened onto a fascinating life lived on the margins.’ 4columns

‘This book is my new best friend. The craft and the beauty of it are a joy and an inspiration.’ Ben Pester

‘A genre-defying wonder.’ Megan Nolan, Books of the Year, White Review

‘A perfect book 10/10. I loved it – the grain of life rendered with such precision and still some vital opacity leftover too’ Rebecca May Johnson

‘Extraordinary . . . Scanlan is nowhere, and yet everywhere, in the shaping and patterning, in the rendering of a voice so distinctive and rich and true’ Wendy Erskine

‘A very special read.’ Marie Claire

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Additional information

Weight 0.45 kg
Dimensions 20 × 13 × 5 cm