REVIEW: No One is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood

In brief: An unnamed narrator is a leader in all things social media until tragedy brings her offline into real life.

The good: The second half is raw with emotion.

The not-so-good: Some concentration required to get through the first half, as life in the portal is anything but linear.

Why I chose it: On The Women’s Prize longlist, thanks Bloomsbury for the copy.

Year: 2021

Pages: 210          

Publisher: Bloomsbury Circus

Setting: America

Rating: 8 out of 10

No One is Talking About This is a novel with two very different parts that separate the online world from the real world. It’s not always the easiest of reads as you need to keep your wits about you in the first half, and the second half is incredibly sad. Ultimately though, it is rewarding.

The premise for the first half of the novel about living in the online world seems eerily prescient given that’s where a lot of the world has been primarily communicating for the last year. The unnamed narrator is someone big in the online world thanks to a viral tweet and her day is spent on the portal, with its in-jokes, language, memes and arguments. She spends hours crafting the perfect tweet and contorting herself into just the right position for a selfie. The online world is demanding and rather forgetful; she knows that if she leaves it, she will soon be forgotten. This part of the story is told in short paragraphs with a dream like quality; if you’re alert (and y’know, truly part of the portal) you will note some internet crazes and memes long gone. If you don’t remember, it can be difficult to understand the moment. Sometimes the narrator is overseas talking about life in the portal on stages with other influencers, sometimes she’s at home thinking about it. But her life is centred around the portal always. She seems adrift, afloat and not quite part of the concrete, 9-to-5 world. While it may not be desirable for all, she seems reasonably happy but even feelings take a back seat to the portal.

The second half of No One is Talking About This is very much in contrast as the narrator is told by her mother to return home due to a family emergency. Almost immediately, the dream like feel of the narrative is replaced by sharper edges and there’s a growing sense of uneasiness as the narrator is forced back into the real-world cold turkey. It’s by choice of course – her love for her family sees her dropping everything and forgetting the portal. Suddenly, her life is not an infinite online world, but confined to just a few others in a small town. This is where the understanding of the title comes in and the narrator is right – nobody is talking about it. Why do we talk about cute animal pics and make gifs when tragic things are happening? Why doesn’t everyone talk about the things that matter and change the lives of others?

Lockwood writes fantastically, capturing the timelessness that occurs when you doom scroll or fall in an internet hole but also successfully conveying the urgency of a life that will be cut short. She also demonstrates how fantastically inconsequential online life is, from the short time span of the internet to how fast it moves on without you. This is in direct contrast to the family emergency in the second half, where time hangs still in parts and nobody is ever forgotten. It’s an excellent juxtaposition that will have you considering just how much online presence is really necessary.

One thought on “REVIEW: No One is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood

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  1. I’m so glad I stuck with this one as the second half is really beautiful and very moving, but I did wonder how non-social media users might find the first half, which is clever, but tiring.

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