The Warlow Experiment by Alix Nathan
Alix Nathan's latest is an impressively-written novel let down by a lack of focus on the heart of its intriguing premise
Set in 1793, The Warlow Experiment is born from a real advertisement placed in a local newspaper by a wealthy gentleman who wanted to see what would happen if a man lived alone for seven years with no human contact. Here, readers follow Mr Powyss, a landowner who recruits semi-literate labourer John Warlow to live in complete isolation in return for £50 every year for the rest of his life, as the story depicts Warlow’s life underground and the increasingly fractured lives of those living above him. As the experiment unfolds, the cracks begin to show and things soon take a sinister turn for the worse.
After reading the opening chapters, it’s clear that The Warlow Experiment has page-turning potential. The quality of writing is impressive, and the book provides an interesting insight into the class system in place in the era. The downfall, it seems, is the decision to focus on the upstairs storyline over the mayhem taking place in the cellar. The experiment’s premise and what it could reveal about human nature is the real point of intrigue, however it feels like an afterthought for most of the book.
Overall, this is an interesting and unique read that is ultimately let down by a rushed plot and a somewhat predictable ending.
Out now via Serpent's Tail, £12.99