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Review: “Goodlord” by Ella Frears – A Dark and Dazzling Email to a Landlord
‘Laced with wit’: Ella Frears. Photograph: Kate Mount

When I tell you that poet Ella Frears’s new “novelistic text” takes the form of one long email to a landlord, you might balk. You shouldn’t: Goodlord is a dazzling treat of a book, genuinely inventive, spiky, and funny. Despite not having much of a plot – a young woman complains to her estate agent about the degradations of the housing market and what it means to be a young woman – Goodlord zips along, blackly compelling and readable.

The email format might seem almost gimmicky, serving as a tiny subtitle on the chic cover to catch the curious bookshop-browser. The stream-of-consciousness text is laid out more like a long poem than anything resembling traditional epistolary form (Frears’s 2020 poetry collection Shine, Darling was shortlisted for the Forward and TS Eliot prizes).

Goodlord is the perfectly awful name of the online property company the narrator must use to renew the tenancy of her damp, grimy flat. The sign-up email from Ava, the estate agent, sparks irony-laced outrage: “I should – should I? – feel graced, or blessed under this roof?… I read your email and a strange, chilled anger filled me, Ava, like if fury were gazpacho.”

We’re whisked through the narrator’s life, from wincingly recognizable school days and bad jobs in bars to brilliantly eerie artist residencies. Her hunger for a home – or even a room with a closeable door – is repeatedly thwarted, the grinding inequalities entrenched by the housing market exposed with a frustration that’s laced with wit.

She also suffers repeatedly at the hands of men, who act as casually entitled to her body as landlords do to her paycheck. Here, Goodlord feels more familiar – she’s the lonely hot-mess girl, worn down by low self-esteem and ennui, often going along with whatever men want, her rage lying in wait beneath. But Frears’s writing is like lightning – fast, crackling, and illuminating, even in well-worn territory. Goodlord offers a flash of insight into the darkest corners of generation rent.

Source: The Guardian