... timely and painfully observant ... an excellent evisceration of contemporary life, and Hamya homes in on how social media allows for groupthink ... offers scathing commentary on societal contradictions, including how easy it is to exist online, but how hard it is for so many women to claim their own views or root themselves in a physical space in real life. Without privacy and ample time for reflection, something that’s hard to come by without the right resources, it’s challenging to have a sense of self ... In dissenting, her narrator creates room for herself — if not, in the end, a room of her own.
... polemical in nature, a notoriously difficult form that indicates the scope of her ambition ... At times the novel’s concerns can feel forced into the narrative and the dialogue, resulting in a flatness that makes both Hamya’s fiction and its message less convincing than they would be otherwise ... But in its finer moments, Three Rooms made me think of the 1979 Japanese novel Territory of Light, by Yuko Tsushima, recently translated into English by Geraldine Harcourt. Also about women in the workplace, it too centers on the question of real estate, the rooms we have access to and the rooms we occupy. It’s a scathing critique of Japanese society, achieved through quiet and relentlessly exact observation, and Hamya’s novel is most successful when it operates in this same mode ... compresses the noise of contemporary life into a record of recent events: Grenfell Tower, Boris Johnson, Brexit. But personal and everyday occurrences take up equal space in the narrator’s consciousness, and are precisely and beautifully rendered ... invokes the reality of living in a world where a reasonable demand is resolutely categorized as unreasonable.
There is a refreshing honesty here both about a certain moral lassitude and the performance of its opposite. Indeed, Three Rooms is one of the most candid and subtle explorations of class by an English novelist in recent years. Hamya writes with a Cuskian pellucidity, but confronts capital and the precariat in a way Cusk never does, in its many smudgy, insidious forms. This is a novel about bumping against the walls of the life you’ve be told to build and finding the doors locked.
Hamya is brilliant at invoking the milieu in which young adults move ... In entering her narrator's consciousness, Hamya has written a political novel that never explicitly states its politics ... And she skewers social media for its performative aspect, while capturing the poignancy of a world in which everyone is living their best lives.
... [a] highly impressive, smart, and sophisticated debut novel ... by no means the mere whining of an underpaid twenty-something-year-old Oxford literature graduate. Rather, looming over the narrative are the political, economic, and social upheavals in the UK, like Brexit, the downfall of Theresa May and the rise of Boris Johnson, and the Grenfell tower tragedy ... The narrator of Three Rooms is sharp, wry, ironic, and, as an outsider of sorts, an astute observer of her environment ... beautifully crafted and well-written. While the narrator’s prose is often crisp and ironic, it occasionally turns lyrical and serious, particularly toward the end of the novel. Although the narrative can be funny and biting, it is also deeply serious.
... the tone of the novel...conveys the banality of professional failure with a clear-eyed absence of histrionics. The grandeur of England’s past provides a honed edge of irony ... This is a book about waiting for a reality that no longer exists. It necessarily has few secondary characters and no drama, and while you wouldn’t want Ms. Hamya to always write under such narrow limitations, her intelligence and stylistic restraint make this snapshot of England all the more damning.
This is an uncomfortable read, full of yearning but also of understandable bitterness. Hamya’s narrator wants so much, minds so much. On her train journey home, in a briefly empty carriage, she finally lets out her pain in a scream that reverberates long after the book is closed.
... haunting ... Far from being a site of youthful abandon, Hamya’s rendering of the campus experience is melancholic, calling to mind Brandon Taylor and Sally Rooney’s work ... Hamya’s portrayal of the entitlement and toxic hostility of this world and the narrator’s ambivalence towards it can feel unremitting...Arguably, however, this only adds to the novel’s confronting social realism: the pervasive financial, professional and emotional precarity experienced by the narrator despite being well educated and privileged ... There are also, in these chapters, some extraordinarily well-observed set pieces: a vignette concerning the announcement of Boris Johnson’s victory in the Conservative leadership contest is breathtaking in its absurdity ... Hamya’s depiction of the narrator disclosing the difficulties she has trying to make space for herself in the world rings with authenticity ... The unequivocally critical tone of the narration will, no doubt, trouble some readers. Equally, the lack of a propulsive plot and the unknowable central character perhaps make this a testing read ... clearly demonstrates, however, that Jo Hamya possesses a powerful and powerfully enquiring intellect. In this brave, experimental book, she asks pertinent and pressing questions about what progress really means for 'a lost generation'.
Woolf is the unhappy mother of Three Rooms. She has clearly influenced 24-year-old Hamya’s sophisticated, spiky but grandiose prose ... Rachel Cusk makes her presence felt here, and the talented Hamya sometimes equals her ... Being born in the late 1990s and having no children is privilege that she is blind to. What single middle-class twentysomething isn’t? After all, Woolf as an Edwardian and Cusk as a mother sought rooms of their own because the alternative was domestic drudgery. Hamya, who longs for a nice place to fill with books and bunches of flowers, misreads her thwarted girlish desires as disenfranchisement ... No matter. As a first book this is a phenomenal achievement. Perfectly judged set pieces at parties, offices and art galleries are infused with the illuminating and inquiring mind of an author who watches our society with an unflinching x-ray eye and tells its stories back to us with elegance and wit. And that, surely, is the mark of an excellent writer.
... cerebral and slyly caustic ... verbatim snatches of headlines and speeches waft through the text, from backstop quarrels to Johnson’s leadership victory address, preserving the recent past as if to assure us the last three years weren’t some kind of collective hallucination. The narrative itself – part campus novel, part office satire – unspools largely as a sinuously discursive meditation comprising the narrator’s tart exchanges with other mostly unnamed characters ... Although you always sense the various interlocutors are being sent up, the novel’s cool electricity relies on stress-testing every point of view it portrays, and the protagonist isn’t immune. Her reflexive despair over Brexit, not to mention her self-perception as an outsider in the ruling-class spaces she inhabits, are subjected to a withering scrutiny that we aren’t invited to dismiss out of hand; despite an ever-present anxiety about the internet, the novel’s structure, made up of successively clinching arguments, embodies the tit-for-tat checkmates of online discourse ... Another influence, you suspect, is Rachel Cusk’s Outline trilogy; yet one feels, too, that Hamya wants to draw attention to the blind spots in Cuskian analyses of unfree womanhood, which – the novel suggests – have little to say to non-property-owning millennials ... an almost aggressively pessimistic inversion of the traditional coming-of-age arc, which takes its place among a recent crop of fiction centred on millennial experience. From racism to sexual abuse and self-harm, the picture seems far from healthy, and while you might well wonder what is up with this generation, perhaps it’s time to listen.
This is fresh, not long matured, and the frequent mentions of the run-up to Brexit and other contemporary politics give the novel some authentic ballast which will ensure its immediate appeal to many of the author’s generation while also, one guesses, dating it very quickly. But, since it is very much a novel of our time and Hamya’s generation, where life is lived as much on a screen as in live communication, this was doubtless unavoidable. The novel also plays off Rachel Cusk’s solipsistic not-quite-fiction, sometimes acerbically ... makes for a degree of self-pity, something common to first novels and perhaps to many of her generation who have been highly educated but find no immediately satisfying place for themselves in a world that does not seem to care for or value their higher education. No doubt this is true to life or at least to the author’s unavoidably limited experience of the world. But it is not, as she seems to suppose, unique to her generation. Many have always found the transition from university to the world of work difficult, disturbing and disappointing. More happily however, a degree of self-pity and consequent resentment has often served writers well ... Still there is also an agreeable sharpness of observation here too. Hamya cherishes detail and this is good. She gives a vivid and persuasive picture of life as lived by highly intelligent well-educated young people today, puzzled and dismayed by the indifference to culture displayed by many they encounter both at university and in the adult world she enters. Not surprisingly, she finds it hard to understand how people can embrace causes for which she can experience only distaste. Well, this is certainly true to life ... The narrator is often tediously self-regarding, but in compensation, there are agreeable flashes of humour ... It’s a picture of the world the author lives in and one that rings true ... Jo Hamya is a very talented writer and this is a good beginning. She has intelligence, a sharp eye and a keen ear. I’m sure she will write richer and fuller novels in which other people are granted the understanding denied them here.
Hamya’s observations are biting and truthful ... Hamya is most successful when she stages her heroine’s alienation in these set pieces. At other times, her prose veers into the style of a newspaper opinion piece. It’s not that this is unpersuasive, rather that it breaks the book’s spell ... Hamya’s writing isn’t always skilled, but she is astute at portraying a new young precariat, rich in culture and education, but poor in housing and job opportunities ... Hamya’s narrator feels this injustice keenly, but the difficulty is that she doesn’t seem to feel very much else. Others passingly remark of her 'You look a bit sad' and 'You look a bit clueless', but if Hamya is intending to signal alienation, it also means that her heroine isn’t great company for the reader. The surrounding characters – the Oxford neighbour, a semi-famous Instagram star, the wealthy staff at the magazine – are all thinly sketched ciphers of entitlement. Still, this is a novel in which disaffection feels real – and, at the novel’s end, the wraith-like heroine finds a heartstoppingly dramatic expression of her distress.
In Brexit-era Britain, a generation of privileged, well-educated young people find themselves underemployed and just scraping by. Hamya paints a cloudy picture of the future for this generation, in a thoughtful novel about the increasingly elusive dream of home ownership.
... distinctive ... A prismatic portrait of British life and millennial angst emerges, with echoes of Zadie Smith and Sally Rooney ... Scintillating prose and sly social observation make this novel a tart pleasure.