MISS JANE BY BRAD WATSON, TLS Review

Brad Watson’s second novel is both charming and disquieting. The Miss Jane of the title is a baby born with a genital birth defect which Watson reveals by degrees. Notions of how anatomy constitutes identity might now seem modish, but Watson sets his novel in rural Mississippi during the early twentieth century and was inspired by the real-life example of his great-aunt, who died in 1975. This historical setting is crucial: the defect, which the reader can gradually piece together as being persistent cloaca, could now be operated on, but Watson is interested in exploring how a woman isolated by this abnormality could learn to live.