Big Swiss

Jen Beagin

Big Swiss
Faber & Faber
United Kingdom
5 March 2024

Big Swiss

Jen Beagin

Greta liked knowing people's secrets. That wasn't a problem. Until she met Big Swiss. Big Swiss. That's Greta's nickname for her - she is tall, and she is from Switzerland. Well that's how Greta imagines her; they haven't actually met in person. Nor has Greta actually ever been to Switzerland.

What Greta doesn't know is that she's about to bump into Big Swiss in the local dog park. A new - and not entirely honest - relationship is going to be born.

A relationship that will transform both of their lives. . .


It’s difficult to review a comedic novel that deals with trauma. So, among all the content warnings regarding reading Big Swiss, it’s best to let the characters speak for themselves on the topic. Greta, our madcap protagonist, is asked by her (ex) fiancé if she is ‘triggered’ by an event at work. She answers, ‘My triggers are covered in wet sand, because my head is a giant cement mixer.’ Flavia, another main character says in therapy, ‘I’m not one of those trauma people’.

Until they meet at the dog park and begin a passionate affair, Greta only knows Flavia by her initials (FEW) because Greta works as a transcriber for ‘Om’, the only (sex) therapist in town. Greta has heard all of Flavia’s sessions and fallen in love with her voice. She thinks of her as ‘Big Swiss’, because she is tall (yes, she mentions this in therapy) and originally from Switzerland.

Greta is chaotic – she has left her fiancé in California and moved to a small New York town. She lives in a crumbling 300-year-old Dutch farmhouse with a marijuana-dealing housemate, Sabine, who disappears for months at a time. Inside the house there is a hive with 60,000 bees, and Greta sleeps at night to the sound of their buzzing below her floor.

Greta is 45; Flavia 28 and married. Greta is the pursuer, but she uses a false name and lies about her age. Greta tries to forget what Flavia has said in therapy, but occasionally she lets details slip and Flavia regards her suspiciously. There is a brilliant scene where Flavia and her husband invite Greta to dinner and the whole dynamic becomes cruel and uncomfortable.

A ‘leaked’ version of Big Swiss led to a 14-way bidding war among streaming services. HBO won, and actor Jodie Comer will direct and star. I’m looking forward to this series immensely. The novel is suited to readers who have enjoyed Beagin’s earlier books or are fans of Ottessa Moshfegh’s work.

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