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January 14, 2020 | Hardcover | 5.5 x 8.4, 208 pages | ISBN 9781640093065
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From the author of The Seed Collectors comes a darkly comic take on power, privilege, and the pressure put on young women to fit in–and be thin–at their all-girls boarding school

It’s already the second week of term when Natasha, the daughter of a Russian oligarch, arrives at a vast English country house for her first day of boarding school. She soon discovers that the headmaster gives special treatment to the skinniest girls, and Tash finds herself thrown into the school’s unfamiliar, moneyed world of fierce pecking orders, eating disorders, and Instagram angst.

The halls echo with the story of Princess Augusta, the White Lady whose portraits–featuring a hypnotizing black diamond–hang everywhere and whose ghost is said to haunt the dorms. It’s said that she fell in love with a commoner and drowned herself in the lake. But the girls don’t really know anything about the woman she was, much less anything about one another. When Tash’s friend Bianca mysteriously vanishes, the routines of the school seem darker and more alien than ever before.

Tash must try to stay alive–and sane–while she uncovers what’s really going on. Hilariously dark, Oligarchy is The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie for the digital age, exploring youth, power, and privilege. Scarlett Thomas captures the lives of privileged teenage girls, in all their triviality and magnitude, seeking acceptance and control in a manipulative world.

About Scarlett Thomas

SCARLETT THOMAS was born in London in 1972. Her other novels include The Seed Collectors; PopCo; The End of Mr. Y, which was long-listed for the Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction in 2007; and Our Tragic Universe. She teaches creative writing at the University of Kent.


Praise for Oligarchy

One of the Evening Standard's Best Books of 2020

"Thomas's humor has a sharp, rhythmic perfection. Her prose is fast-thinking, entertaining and punchy, her dialogue fully authentic without sinking into the tedium of real-life conversation . . . Intriguing, fluid and frequently funny." --The New York Times Book Review, Editors' Choice

"Scarlett Thomas, a British writer who excels at delivering novels about difficult subjects, turns her brilliant, incisive gaze to a boarding school in Oligarchy . . . A strange but urgent glimpse into society's often conflicting expectations of girls." --Bethanne Patrick, The Washington Post

"Thomas (The Seed Collectors) has a perfectly pitched ear for human cruelty and self-delusion--one man has 'the eyes of a lifeguard who lets people drown'--and all the wild tortures young girls subject themselves to just to feel pretty in the world." --Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly

"Oligarchy uses the familiar phenomena of adolescent copycatting and boarding-school insularity to cannily--and eerily--create a world that feels women-focused but proves to be the reverse . . . Steering [her] protagonists toward liberation, [Thomas] seem[s] to suggest that an honest reckoning with misogyny might produce not only solidarity, but also change." --Lily Meyer, The Atlantic

"In this delicious Gothic set in a British boarding school, the daughter of a massively rich Russian finds herself menaced equally by Instagram, an anorexia epidemic, and a spectral ancestor whose haunting portraits seem to watch her every move." --O, The Oprah Magazine, 1 of 16 Best Books to Read This Month

"One of the funniest novels in recent years . . . It takes a special kind of audacity to write a comic novel about teenagers with eating disorders, but Thomas executes it brilliantly . . . It's Thomas' boldness, as well as her writing--every sentence seems painstakingly constructed--that make Oligarchy such a remarkable novel. It's brash, bizarre and original, an unflinching look at a group of young women who have become 'hungry ghosts, flickering on the edge of this world.'" --Michael Schaub, NPR

"A palpable thread of menace winds relentlessly through Oligarchy . . . This darkly funny novel of suspense, glorious in its scope, is just as interested in delineating the decadent capitalism glittering within contemporary London, the easy, casual cruelty integral to criminally funded wealth, and the pitch-black impulses that can lurk within the human heart."--Daneet Steffens, The Seattle Review of Books

"Oligarchy is dark and gothic and hilarious and so sharp on the sentence level I can feel my mind waking up when I read it. It's set at an English boarding school, where a group of adolescent girls take on anorexia as a sort of group project (groomed in this, we will learn, by sinister forces) . . . It's pure aesthetic pleasure to live in these pages too, because Thomas allows these girls their full intelligence . . . There's a piercing clarity to the vision here. It's the kind of seeing that only art makes possible." --Clare Beams, Bustle

"Thomas does a fantastic job of capturing the mental and verbal style of a contemporary teen without being precious or exasperating . . . This is a weird, twisty book, and anyone familiar with Thomas' oeuvre will expect the kind of dark humor that is only possible from a writer of profound compassion. Strong stuff. Another strange delight from one of the United Kingdom's most interesting authors." --Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Thomas' work reveals her deep empathy for human vulnerabilities, her omnivorous curiosity, and her quirky and dark sense of humor. In her latest novel, Oligarchy, Thomas joins noir mystery and arch social commentary to create a provocative coming-of-age tale." --Lori Feathers, Literary Hub

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