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Library Journal Review
Across England, Bovine Idiopathic Entrancement has reached epidemic proportions as cows sink into a state of total apathy, spending their days, until culled, simply staring straight ahead, disengaged from the world. The characters in this sad and funny debut suffer from their own brand of idiopathy, trapped in private hells of self-obsession. Katherine, an emotional train wreck, desperately craves love while simultaneously driving away anyone who would come too close. Her ex-lover, Daniel, lives a life of outward stability while remaining in a state of perpetual disengagement from his emotions and his true self. Nathan has just returned from a residential treatment center after an episode of self-mutilation. Meeting at Daniel's suburban home after a year apart, these three characters struggle to come to terms with both their psychological disarray and their tangled relationships. VERDICT In this witty and engaging first novel, Byers uses his acerbic style to skewer contemporary vanities while recognizing the loneliness and genuine need for connection that underlies narcissism.-Lawrence Rungren, Merrimack Valley Lib. Consortium, Andover, MA (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
Byers's debut novel starts promisingly but bogs down thanks to a particularly unpleasant main character, Katherine. She, Daniel, and Nathan are three friends in London whose lives are going through a rough patch. Once a couple, Katherine and Daniel have broken up, and Nathan has emerged from a long stint in rehab. As Daniel settles into a cushy new job and a relationship with the sanctimonious Angelina, Katherine distracts herself with a series of meaningless affairs, while Nathan moves back in with his parents, to learn that his mother has become a self-help guru. Initially, Katherine is bright, sassy, and fun, but after she gets pregnant, she seems to snap, reflexively saying cruel things and behaving obnoxiously to everyone she meets. The minimal storyline, in which Nathan persuades his old friends to get together for one last evening's carouse, hardly helps the book, while a subplot about a mysterious illness striking England's cattle adds little. Byers can write scenes with humor and sketches some memorable supporting characters-Nathan's parents cry out for more space-but the work never recovers from the decision to afflict the heroine with what reads like a severe personality disorder. Agent: Peter Straus, Rogers, Coleridge & White (U.K.). (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
In this debut novel, UK-based Byers tells a woefully funny story of dysfunctional friendships and social anxiety during a bovine epidemic in England. Byers intertwines the lives of two former lovers depressed, reckless Katherine and the successful PR man Daniel who find themselves forced to reunite when their estranged mate Nathan, scarred, tattooed, and freshly sober, emerges from psychiatric rehabilitation. The trio's climactic encounter is terribly awkward and totally absurd, and includes at least one diseased sow. Byers writes with caustic humor and takes no small joy in his characters' sufferings, similar in ways to Jonathan Franzen at his finest. Likewise, readers keen on Joseph O'Neill or Martin Amis will find Byers palatable. Byers has already garnered favorable recognition for Idiopathy, landing on the Daily Telegraph's Five Young Novelists for 2013 list as well as the Eleven, a list published by British book retailer Waterstones. This, plus publication of Idiopathy in wide translation, signals the rise of a young star in the world of fiction.--Baez, Diego Copyright 2010 Booklist
Kirkus Book Review
A darkly comic novel turns bleaker and sadder as a generation of perennially adolescent Britons struggles to find love, or meaning, or maturity or something. The front page of the debut novel by Byers defines "idiopathy" as "a disease or condition which arises spontaneously or for which the cause is unknown." It refers most specifically to a crisis which pervades England, initially referred to vaguely and obliquely as "all this terrible cow business" and "whatever was going on with the cattle." Worse than mad cow disease and capable of crossing species, infecting sheep and even humans, it hovers in the background of the novel, which focuses on the relationship (or lack thereof) among Katherine, Daniel and Nathan, who are stuck in some gaping maw between mindless adolescence (which seems to extend well into the mid-20s) and adult responsibility. On the surface, Katherine is the most interesting and least likable: "The better she was at her job, the more people hated her. By general consensus, Katherine was very good at her job." She has sex, indiscriminately and without any satisfaction, with some co-workers who hate her less (or at least differently) than the others, and perhaps she does so to fill the void left by her breakup with Daniel, though when the two were lovers they never seemed to like each other much. Observes their friend Nathan, "[o]n a good day, they drew on pooled energy. On a bad day, they battled for dwindling air." Nathan has recently been released from psychiatric treatment following his attempts to really hurt himself (though not, he insists, to kill himself) after professing his love for and to Katherine. He may well be the sanest of the three. They inevitably reunite, after the reader has spent long stretches inside the consciousness of each, as the gathering unexpectedly encompasses Daniel's blandly beautiful girlfriend and the man with whom she might be having an affair, in a climax that suggests a younger version of Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. Throughout, words are platitudes, words are weapons, words are what distinguish this generation from the diseased cattle across the novel's backdrop. Perhaps. Here's hoping the promising novelist finds a depth of meaning that eludes his characters.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.