The elegant nested structure is one of the novel’s chief appeals. So is the contrast between Rebecca’s narrative voice...and the cool tone of GMB’s Life of Braithwaite. What emerges is a comedy of identities tried on and discarded. Given the number of suicides that mark the story, it’s a comedy with dark underpinnings ... A diverting novel, overflowing with clever plays on and inversions of tropes of English intellectual and social life during the postwar decades. As such, it is not exactly an excursion into undiscovered literary terrain. Reading Burnet’s doubly mediated metafiction of North London neurotics and decadents, I often longed to turn back to the shelf for the real thing ... It’s a compliment to put Case Study in that company and no insult to say that Burnet must have done his homework to get there.
... another formally inventive offering ... Macrae's novel works on various levels. It is an elaborate, mind-bending guessing game; it is a blackly comic and quietly moving study of a nervous breakdown; and it is a captivating portrait of an egomaniac. If the notebooks depict a gripping chain of events, then the biographical sections expertly flesh out the grotesque, manipulative yet charismatic Braithwaite. Macrae has reliably delivered another work of fiendish fun.
An interest in exploring complex psychological dramas through intricate narrative structures takes centre stage ... The defining essence of Burnet’s work to date is to be found in...literary gamesmanship, a brand of metatextuality that is as much about exploiting the possibilities of the novel form as it is about blurring the boundaries between appearance and reality. In throwing us into doubt about which – and more crucially whose – story we are supposed to be following, Burnet encourages us to look more closely at the inherent instability of fiction itself ... Case Study is above all a very funny book, a wry look back at 60s counterculture in which Burnet’s inventions rub shoulders with real personalities. But much as Braithwaite’s outlandish behaviour and performative rudeness might raise a knowing smile, his theories on identity and selfhood, appearance and reality are never as bonkers as we pretend they are. If Burnet’s aim in writing Case Study was to force us up against the contradictions of our conflicted selves, he has surely succeeded. This is a novel that is entertaining and mindfully engrossing in equal measure.
A book that is enormous fun to read, a mystery and a psychological drama wrapped up in one. Buoyed by the evident pleasure Macrae Burnet takes in spinning such a tightly knit tale – the author’s note at the end is magnificent – Case Study is a triumph, and ought to give Saraband another success story.
Artful ... Such admittedly lofty themes might give the impression that Case Study is a rather punishing chin-stroker of a novel. In fact, Burnet’s triumph is that it’s a page-turning blast, funny, sinister and perfectly plotted so as to reveal — or withhold — its secrets in a consistently satisfying way. It also does a fine job of keeping our sympathies shifting, and of conjuring up a lost cultural era. Rarely has being constantly wrong-footed been so much fun.
Inventive as ever, Case Study is a masterclass of diversion. Ever blurring the lines of fiction and reality in the form itself, readers come seeking one answer, but instead are drawn into the search for countless more. Serious and witty at once, reality becomes what we make of it. Reality, in this case, is an enthralling read.
Tortuous, cunning and highly self-conscious new novel, filled with doubles and doppelgängers. Readers who equate self-referentiality with intellectual integrity, or who simply enjoy being toyed with, are in for a treat ... A riveting psychological plot, rooted in the therapeutic counterculture of the 1960s, that keeps overturning ideas about madness, identity and culpability ... What is so clever about Burnet’s novel, and the source of much of its humour ... And yet nothing is straightforward: contradictory accounts defy easy judgement, as do the abundant clues, hinting, crucially, at what is missing from Braithwaite’s solipsistic analysis – the social and cultural forces that shape behaviour ... More than a work of power play. Ultimately, what the author wants to show us is that, by pulling us into his tale, he can leave ink on our hands too ... Crafty.
Very well done ... For the most part, though Macrae Burnet finds different voices for the writer of the notebooks and the unnamed author of the biographical Braithwaite chapters, his style is plain, lucid, very readable and rich in irony. There are fine comic passages ... Macrae Burnet writes with an admirable lucidity, at the same time being able to probe and shed light on the dark places of the mind. Writing in a prose that is spare, deadpan and yet alive, he poses questions about the nature and perception of what we choose to call reality. He is an uncommonly interesting and satisfying novelist.
[A] barnstorming psychodrama, which successfully fuses mystery, comedy and a meditation on the nebulous nature of identity ... Burne...likes to play with the framework of a novel. Here, he uses a see-saw structure, switching between passages of his own biography of the fictional 'enfant terrible of the so-called anti-psychiatry movement' and six notebooks written by the nameless receptionist. What begins as a detective story morphs into a trippy examination of the perils and pleasures of taking on a persona ... The musty north London milieu, with its chintzy tea rooms, cold park benches and sticky pubs, is brilliantly evoked ... Consistently inventive, caustically funny and surprisingly moving, this is one of the finest novels of the year.
Burnet is the ultimate unreliable narrator, and Case Study serves as a worthy addition to his oeuvre; however, defining that oeuvre is a challenge ... As Burnet’s fictions increase in complexity, he appears to distance himself further from his creative work ... not a unique narrative...Burnet stands apart, however. He not only presents different iterations of narratives, but different versions of authorship. Like a character in Case Study, Burnet has 'a flexible relationship with the truth.' In translation? Not one word he writes is true.
The meticulous attention to the contents of Braithwaite’s books calls their actual existence into question. The matryoshka-style layering of narratives, each dependent on the other, is engaging and disorienting ... Case Study is an immersive novel that stretches its fiction to fact-like proportions.
Burnet evokes a place and an era very nicely, in pitch-perfect prose. Braithwaite is a compelling character, but it's his female narrator, in particular, that makes for such enjoyable reading. Emotion remains beautifully buried in her often affectless account ... Case Study is an artfully twisted and presented fiction about identity and the stories we tell, and a wonderful evocation of 1960s London. The resolution is appropriate enough, if arguably not quite offering the hoped-for payoff, given the built-up tension of the story's basic premise, but this is certainly a satisfying read.
A psychological drama blurring the lines between fiction and reality ... A cleverly crafted investigation of sanity and identity, set against the backdrop of social upheaval in London ... Contains multiple metafictional twists, creating an illusion of historical reality where fictional characters interact with real people ... While Braithwaite's biography is a fascinating character study of a brilliant mind flirting with disaster and debauchery, it is the young woman's notebooks that will mesmerize readers. Here is a sexually repressed, prudish and antisocial person raised in a sheltered North London environment, yet her notebooks reveal a curious and rich imagination, wry humor and a desperate desire for human touch and validation ... Burnet's deployment of multiple narrative structures, his finely tuned depiction of Braithwaite, and the fascinating revelations of the diarist result in an unforgettable story, one that will rattle readers long after its startling, disorientating ending.
Provocative ... As the novel progresses, the author’s layering of his fictional characters’ unverifiable testimony, frank deception, and self-aggrandizing half-truths with significant historical figures of the time...and GMB's omnipresent frame narrative overlap to the extent that it's hard to tell not just whose perception to trust, but which among all these counterfeit identities is real ... This results in a novel that strives toward the biggest of questions...but lacks the character-driven empathy that would encourage us to care about the answer ... A brisk and engaging novel that wears itself thin on the grindstone of its own conceit.