CANONGATE £7.99 £7.99 (P&P FREE) 08700 798 897

The Little White Car by Danuta de Rhodes

It's his/her best novel yet: Thelma and Louise without the travelling

Once upon a time, female novelists, for propriety's sake, disguised themselves as men. These days, it's male novelists who are prone to pretending to be women. It used to be that writing a first-person narrative from a female perspective was enough, but now the game has become more complicated. First Toby Litt published a novel last year called Finding Myself that had his name on the cover, but biographical details for a different author called Victoria About on the reverse, who, the conceit went, was responsible for the prose within. Now, Canongate are publishing a debut novel by a 24-year-old French female writer called Danuta de Rhodes.

Danuta, however, shares a publisher, several letters of her name and cover design with acclaimed British novelist Dan Rhodes, who always claimed he was going to retire from publishing after his third book, Timoleon Vieta Come Home. Given that this book was such a success in so many countries, could it be that he's returned in disguise?

It seems so. When I emailed Dan to ask whether this was the case, he denied all knowledge, claiming that she was "a cow" and he hated her and that if I got sent the book for review, could I please slag it off? Tempting as it is to play along with the game, I think there are two things that elevate this exercise beyond the literary in-joke it has already been dismissed as in some quarters. First, there's the novel itself, The Little White Car, which is excellent, and by far the best book Rhodes has published, and I'll get to it in more detail in a moment. Second, there's the intriguing phenomenon that while many of the older female novelists are quick to dismiss chick-lit, many male novelists seem deeply intrigued by the genre. And The Little White Car comes with an endorsement from Jenny Colgan, who, along with Lisa Jewell, is one of the most well-known and admired chick-lit authors.

For me, the fascinating thing about chick-lit is that it's a genuinely new genre, one that can now stand shoulder to shoulder with thrillers and horror and all the other categories that have been around for hundreds of years. It's possible to draw a line back to Pride and Prejudice, of course, but chick-lit has many new rules and restrictions that don't apply to Austen's novel. Critics and publishers have floated "lad lit" as the male equivalent to chick-lit, but it doesn't seem particularly well-defined as a genre, much more of a catch-all definition for any novel written by a man whether it's a thriller or a love story. Both Litt and Rhodes seem to be using the chick-lit genre as a way to explore psychology and relationships in a seemingly lighter, but extraordinarily acute manner.

The Little White Car is a Thelma and Louise-style novel where the two French protagonists don't really get anywhere, as Rhodes short-circuits the action to deal with the relationships between his characters. It's beautifully written, and very funny. Operating under disguise seems to have liberated Rhodes, and I'm eager to see his next incarnation. Only the very best novelists can reinvent themselves with each book, and few have taken the process as far as Rhodes.

Arts and Entertainment

Film Leonardo DiCaprio hunts Tom Hardy

Arts and Entertainment
And now for something completely different: the ‘Sin City’ episode of ‘Casualty’
TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

    Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
    HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
    Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

    'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

    Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
    Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

    The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

    Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen
    Secrets of comedy couples: What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?

    Secrets of comedy couples

    What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?
    Satya Nadella: As Windows 10 is launched can he return Microsoft to its former glory?

    Satya Nadella: The man to clean up for Windows?

    While Microsoft's founders spend their billions, the once-invincible tech company's new boss is trying to save it
    The best swimwear for men: From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer

    The best swimwear for men

    From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer
    Mark Hix recipes: Our chef tries his hand at a spot of summer foraging

    Mark Hix goes summer foraging

     A dinner party doesn't have to mean a trip to the supermarket
    Ashes 2015: With an audacious flourish, home hero Ian Bell ends all debate

    With an audacious flourish, the home hero ends all debate

    Ian Bell advances to Trent Bridge next week almost as undroppable as Alastair Cook and Joe Root, a cornerstone of England's new thinking, says Kevin Garside
    Aaron Ramsey interview: Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season

    Aaron Ramsey interview

    Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season
    Community Shield: Arsene Wenger needs to strike first blow in rivalry with Jose Mourinho

    Community Shield gives Wenger chance to strike first blow in rivalry with Mourinho

    As long as the Arsenal manager's run of games without a win over his Chelsea counterpart continues it will continue to dominate the narrative around the two men
    The unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth - and what it says about English life

    Unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth

    Bournemouth’s elevation to football’s top tier is one of the most improbable of recent times. But it’s illustrative of deeper and wider changes in English life
    A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

    A Very British Coup, part two

    New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
    Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

    Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

    Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms