Longlisted for the Booker Prize in 2022. Under attack from within, Lia tries to keep the landscapes of her past, her present and her body separate. But time and bodies are porous, and unpredictable.

Something gleeful and malign is moving in Lia’s body. It shape-shifts down the banks of her canals, leaks through her tissue, nooks and nodes. It taps her trachea like the bones of a xylophone. It’s spreading.

Lia’s story is told, in part, by the very thing that’s killing her; a malevolent voice that wanders her systems, learning her from the inside-out. The novel moves between her past and her present as we come to understand the people that have shaped her life.

In turn, each of these take up their place in the battle raging within Lia’s body, at the centre of which dances the murderous narrator and a boy nicknamed ‘Red’ - the toxic chemo that is Lia’s last hope.

The Booker Prize 2022
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Maddie Mortimer

Maddie Mortimer

About the Author

Maddie Mortimer was longlisted for the Booker Prize in 2022. She was born in London in 1996 to a family of writers: both her mother and her maternal grandfather were also authors.
More about Maddie Mortimer

Maddie Mortimer on Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies

‘It’s the most unexpected joy. I feel really very honoured, and it’s particularly surreal sitting there alongside authors I have read, loved and admired for a very long time. I’ve not entertained the prospect of winning. Most importantly, it’s given me a little boost of confidence to plough on with book two, and reassured me that I’m not completely mad.

‘I welcome the horror-genre connections that have been made. For a book so preoccupied with the inner workings of the body and how our biology can turn on itself, there was going to be a bit of ‘gore’. But my imagination has always felt like a very visceral place. It’s something that Lia also shares, and is grappling with throughout the novel; the horrors our minds can conjure, the monsters we make for ourselves, how to live with them and redefine them. I’ve always wanted to believe that shifting one’s perception of a thing literally transforms the thing itself. I think the book is testing this notion constantly in various ways – trying to see how true it is.’

Read the full interview here.

What the judges said

‘Deliriously inventive and viscerally moving, Mortimer’s debut is a patterned, protean narrative that astonishes and overwhelms.’

What the critics said

Laura Chanoux, Booklist

‘Using word placement, font, and shape to create images on the page, Mortimer deepens the reader’s engagement with the story and characters… Through breathtaking attention to detail, Mortimer crafts a stunning novel that touches on the expanses one life can contain.’

Publishers Weekly

‘The cancer intrudes with bursts of modernist lyricism which can feel excessive, but the author does a good job tying everything together. Though this first outing is a bit baggy, Mortimer shows promise.’

Caleb Klaces, The Guardian

‘Mortimer’s writing is restlessly inventive. It includes different fonts, stanzas, visual arrangements, lists and playful definitions, without settling on a particular approach. Images are often both pleasing and convoluted.’

Miriam Balanescu, inews UK

‘The book is inspired by the experience of Mortimer’s mother, who died of cancer in 2010, and the dynamics of this family under unthinkable strain are carefully rendered […] Though the plot occasionally borders on the melodramatic, Mortimer has produced a contemplative reflection on what it is to be perceived from behind ‘walls of skin’, whether actions have embodied consequences, and the incomprehensibility of suffering […] It may move between different styles and moods, but underpinning it all is the book’s bursting energy and, in the face of death, its verve for life.’

Lillian Pearce, Michigan Daily

‘Though perhaps Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies deserves its Booker Prize nomination due to its unorthodox style and its unique narration, its regurgitation of lackluster representations of disease and its failure to effectively resolve significant character tensions make its position on the longlist understandable and concurred.

Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies by Maddie Mortimer

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