Real Life | Brandon Taylor

Real Life


Published 30 July 2020
ISBN: 9781911547747
Format: Paperback

Also available as an eBook:



Wallace has spent his summer in the lab breeding a strain of microscopic worms. He is four years into a biochemistry degree at a lakeside Midwestern university, a life that’s a world away from his childhood in Alabama. His father died a few weeks ago, but Wallace didn’t go back for the funeral, and he hasn’t told his friends – Miller, Yngve, Cole and Emma. For reasons of self-preservation, he has become used to keeping a wary distance even from those closest to him. But, over the course of one blustery end-of-summer weekend, the destruction of his work and a series of intense confrontations force Wallace to grapple with both the trauma of the past, and the question of the future.

Deftly zooming in and out of focus, Real Life is a deeply affecting story about the emotional cost of reckoning with desire, and overcoming pain.

‘Astonishingly accomplished . . . Brandon Taylor has written a truly exquisite story of love, sex, death, and microbes that is both intimate and expansive.’ – Times Literary Supplement 

‘Unquestionably the queer novel of the year . . . An essential novel from a truly exciting new writer.’ – Irish Times

‘Psychologically compelling, incisively satirical, told in a muted style that nevertheless accesses a full emotional range, this is a brilliant book, worthy of a wide audience.’ – Observer

Real Life is a campus novel in the tradition of Sally Rooney and Ben Lerner, and Taylor is as good as either of them – a sharp, witty and generous writer.’ – Literary Review

‘An elegant take on the “campus novel” and a deeply moving study of race, grief and desire.’ – Sunday Times

‘With the rigour of the laboratory, Taylor wields scalpel-like prose, putting human behaviours under the microscope . . . Precise and masterly.’ – Financial Times 

‘The prose is exact and clear; Taylor has a keen sensitivity for surface detail.’ – The Times

‘With its icily cool sentences, mysterious tonal shifts and determinedly open ending, Taylor’s novel is a curiously liquid thing, with troubling, opaque depths.’ – Guardian

‘Taylor is a masterful observer, his details of everything from a tennis match to sex and dissections both clinically and exquisitely precise.’ – Telegraph

‘Stunningly executed . . . As in the modernist novels of Woolf, Real Life is formally ambitious and densely suggestive: worlds exist beneath the surface, violently shifting against one another.’ – Sydney Morning Herald

‘A great American novel, a great college novel, a great summer novel, a great queer novel, a great novel of life as it has always been lived by young people waiting for their “real life” to begin, and just a really, really great novel . . . The best novel I’ve read this year.’ – Dazed

Real Life beautifully dissects themes of loss, rejection, sexual violence and racism with forensic, but compassionate insight.’ – Uli Lenard, Attitude Magazine

‘There is delicacy in the details of working in a lab full of microbes and pipettes that dances across the pages like the feet of a Cunningham dancer: pure, precise poetry.’ – Jeremy O. Harris, New York Times

‘A new kind of campus novel . . . Taylor endows his narrative with the precision of science and the intimacy of memoir.’ – The New Yorker

‘A tender, deeply-felt, perfectly-paced novel about solitude and society, sexuality and race.’ – Colm Tóibín, author of Brooklyn

‘Extraordinary, brilliant, claustrophobic, tightly wound, heartbreaking.’ – Daisy Johnson, author of Everything Under