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The Large Door Reviews

The Large Door by Jonathan Gibbs

The Large Door

Jonathan Gibbs

4.25 out of 5

3 reviews

Imprint: Boiler House Press
Publisher: UEA Publishing Project
Publication date: 4 Apr 2019
ISBN: 9781911343547

When Jenny Thursley, a 40-year old linguistics lecturer, returns to Europe for a conference in Amsterdam, she finds herself pitched back into the presence of a life she had fled: a once-inspirational mentor now dying, a former lover again within reach, the flickerings of new desire. Over little more than twenty-four hours Jenny must write a keynote conference speech, face up to her own mortality, and to the consequences of the bad choices she has made while finding the nerve to make new choices that might be no better. Witty, sexy and provocative, The Large Door is a meditation on life and living, and on ages golden and otherwise that recalls the sparkling mid-century work of writers such as Muriel Spark and Brigid Brophy.

4 stars out of 5
25 Jun 2019

"The conference as a zone of timeless time"

In his new novel, The Large Door, Jonathan Gibbs captures the academic conference universe to perfection, right down to the canapés, the eye-glazing, colon-punctuated paper titles and the corrosive gossip. But this is not the laugh-out-loud satire with which David Lodge sent up the same milieu thirty-five years ago in Small World. Chill Amsterdam is the backdrop to a meeting of the International Society for Philology and Linguistics, and something much bleaker. In from Berkeley jets forty-something academic superstar Dr Jenny Thursley to deliver an encomium for her former supervisor, Leonard Peters. She hasn’t finished drafting the speech yet, and there is considerable discussion in the novel as to whether she will ever give it, or even finish writing it. This is slyly clever, for part of the speech will be or, more accurately, could be, about the subjunctive.


4 stars out of 5
Andrew Dickson
24 May 2019

"a haunting work, charged with wistful possibilities of what might have been"

Jonathan Gibbs has a thing for trompe l’oeil; his debut novel, 2014’s Randall or The Painted Grape, portrayed a Young British Artist who was a dead ringer for Damien Hirst. This new book, too, is full of dizzying reflections. Reading it is like strolling through a hall of mirrors, a series of half-apprehended shapes and tricks of the light... at its best, The Large Door echoes the Dutch paintings Gibbs so plainly admires: it is poised, suspenseful and enigmatic, with a hint of brute eroticism. More than that, it has heart.

5 stars out of 5
11 Apr 2019

"ery, very funny – Gibbs doesn’t miss the chance for a bit of campus-novel preposterousness"

Gibbs, his second novel confirms, is a Young Master himself. The Large Door is if anything even better than its predecessor. This time, the setting is academia, with Jenny Thursley, a troubled, fortysomething linguistics lecturer, returning from the US to Europe for a conference dedicated to the work of her ailing, one-time mentor...The author has an outsize talent for observation and simile, at one moment giving the reader a captivating view of the room in the round, the next zooming in to a practically cellular level... The Large Door has echoes throughout of Saul Bellow’s famous line that “Death is the dark backing that a mirror needs if we are to see anything.” But it is also very, very funny – Gibbs doesn’t miss the chance for a bit of campus-novel preposterousness. I can’t think of many authors who are capable of doing so many things so well, all at once.