‘The truth is that sometimes we just want the worst to happen.’
A woman leaves the man she lives with and moves to a low stone cottage in a university town. She joins an academic department and, high up in her office on the thirteenth floor, begins a research project on the poet Paul Celan. She knows nothing of Celan, still less of her new neighbours or colleagues.
She is in self-imposed exile, hoping to find dignity in her loneliness. Like everywhere, the abiding feeling in the city is one of paranoia. The weather is deteriorating, the ordinary lives of women are in peril, and an unexplained curfew has been imposed.
But then she meets Clara, a woman who is her exact opposite: decisive, productive and assured. As their friendship grows in intimacy Clara suggests another way of living – until an act of violence threatens to sever everything between them.
Reminiscent of Thomas Bernhard, Rachel Cusk and Gwendoline Riley, The Coming Bad Days is a penetrating portrait of feminine vulnerability and cruelty. It announces the arrival of a startling new voice in fiction: intelligent, brutal, sure, and devastatingly funny.
‘There is something beautiful in the novel’s willingness to be in a space of ambiguity… The Coming Bad Days fine-tunes the reader into more sensitive ways of being in the world.’ – Guardian
‘Scathingly funny, charmingly morbid and contemplative.’ – Literary Review
‘Bernstein’s pessimism evokes the likes of Arthur Schopenhauer and Thomas Bernhard, chiming all too well with the current discourse around issues of male privilege.’ – Spectator
‘A startling and inventive piece of work about the absurdity and difficulty of being alive.’ – Irish Times
‘Through a fragmentary, darkly humorous prose, Bernstein seizes on some of contemporary literature’s most familiar themes and subverts them to startling ends.’ – The Skinny
‘Deeply moving. Sarah Bernstein manages to combine cool, perfectly weighted prose with an extraordinary emotional sensibility. Every sentence is polished and replete.’ – Fiona Mozley, author of Elmet
‘The Coming Bad Days is raw, dazzling and bracingly new. A vividly original novel about the fractured difficulty of living.’ – Rebecca Tamás, author of Strangers
‘Sinewy and seductive. A beautiful, mysterious, existential shudder of a book, and a map of disorientation.’ – Olivia Sudjic, author of Asylum Road
‘The Coming Bad Days is lucid, funny and darkly alive; a bright knife that refuses to cut out the worm in the heart.’ – Daisy Lafarge, author of Life Without Air
‘An exceptionally sharp, poised novel about the fragility and strangeness of existence. By turns mournful, wry and starkly beautiful, this is a book to savour.’ – Megan Hunter, author of The Harpy