Jonathan Buckley

Giramondo Publishing
1 March 2024


Jonathan Buckley

‘I can talk for as long as you like, no problem. You’ll just ha ve to tell me when to stop. How far back do you want to take it?’

Tell is a probing and compelling examination of the ways in which we make stories of our own lives and of other people’s. Jonathan Buckley’s novel is structured as a series of interview transcripts with a woman who worked as a gardener for a wealthy businessman and art collector who has mysteriously disappeared.

The joint winner of The Novel Prize, Tell is a work of strange and intoxicating immediacy that explores money, art and industry, the intimacy and distance between social classes, and the complex fluidity of memory.


In Tell, a gardener talks about a wealthy businessman and art collector she used to work for in a series of interview transcripts. The man has disappeared, and the gardener is now being interviewed about his life at his extravagant home.

I was intrigued by Tell not only because of what was outlined in its blurb, but also because I tend to keep an eye on books that are published through Giramondo. These books can be quite literary, experimental in form, and ambiguous in their meaning.

While the form is very much stream-of-consciousness, as the gardener can talk for seemingly hours on end, we never actually know what questions are being posed by the interviewer. The questions, however, don’t really matter, because what actually matters is the blurring of the line between subject and object, and how much we can actually rely on one person for the truth about someone else’s life.

As established early on, the man’s disappearance leaves us wondering whether he just did a 180 or if he committed suicide. It is through the gardener’s experience, and the gardener sharing anecdotes from other family members, friends and staff who are connected to the man, that we realise we can never truly know another person’s motivations.

If that seems a little unsettling, don’t let it lead you astray. There are many moments of beauty, love and light in Tell, as well as insight into social class and the contemporary art world. Plus, as a fan of Rachel Cusk’s introspective Outline trilogy, I found that Tell showed interesting parallels with a more extroverted type of narrative.

This book flows very smoothly and the language isn’t particularly dense or difficult, but at the same time it will leave you with lots to contemplate.

This item is in-stock at 7 shops and will ship in 3-4 days

Our stock data is updated periodically, and availability may change throughout the day for in-demand items. Please call the relevant shop for the most current stock information. Prices are subject to change without notice.

Sign in or become a Readings Member to add this title to a wishlist.