Big Swiss - Jen Beagin - Keeping Up With The Penguins
Buy Big Swiss here
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Anyone who’s ever been in therapy knows the deal. It’s meant to be private. Like, seriously private. But what if a therapist is writing a book? What if he’s getting someone to transcribe audio recordings of someone’s sessions? And what if that transcriber were to… fall in love with the patient? That’s basically the premise of Big Swiss, and when Allen & Unwin sent me a copy, I knew I *had* to read it.

Big Swiss “combines the heart and wit of Sorrow And Bliss with the joy and touch of surrealism in Schitt’s Creek“. Greta is a 45-year-old audio transcriber for a sex therapist, living in a run-down barely-holding-it-together house in a tiny town where everyone knows everyone.

The woman she calls “Big Swiss” is a client of her boss, a 28-year-old married gynecologist who’s never had an orgasm and refuses to let a past trauma define her.

Both Greta and Big Swiss have dogs, so it’s not a huge surprise that they’d run into each other at the dog park. Greta knows Big Swiss’s most intimate secrets, Big Swiss doesn’t even know Greta’s real name. Greta is in love with her. What could go wrong?

For about two-thirds of Big Swiss, I was completely enamoured. This prose was clever and a bit off-beat. The characters were flawed, Moshfegh-style. The story was very cleverly related – Beagin actually built the a trigger warning into the narrative (with Greta’s boss warning her that a forthcoming transcription might be too much for her, due to its graphic depiction of violence). Clever!

But then, I hit one of the biggest NOPE!s in my recent reading memory. Pretty much out of nowhere, there is a major dog trauma that totally wrecked me. Seriously, dog lovers, you’re going to have a really tough time with Big Swiss. I found it hard to enjoy after that scene. I sped right through to the end, mostly to make sure the dog ended up okay.

So, all in all, a mixed bag. Big Swiss was weirder, and more traumatic, than I expected. The literary merit can’t be questioned, but take care if you have any sensitivity around dog-related trauma, suicide, or graphic violence against women.

Buy Big Swiss on Booktopia here. (affiliate link)