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Kick the Latch

UK Publisher: Daunt Books
US Publisher: New Directions

A New Yorker Book of the Year


About one woman’s fine, hard life at the racetrack, Kick the Latch – with its ruthless concision and artful mysteries – is lightning in a bottle.

Kathryn Scanlan’s Kick the Latch vividly captures the arc of one woman’s life at the racetrack – the flat land and ramshackle backstretch; the bad feelings and friction; the winner’s circle and the racetrack bar; the fancy suits and fancy boots; and the ‘particular language’ of ‘grooms, jockeys, trainers, racing secretaries, stewards, pony people, hotwalkers, everybody’ – with economy and integrity.

Based on transcribed interviews with Sonia, a horse trainer, the novel investigates form and authenticity in a feat of synthesis reminiscent of Charles Reznikoff’s Testimony. As Scanlan puts it, ‘I wanted to preserve – amplify, exaggerate – Sonia’s idiosyncratic speech, her bluntness, her flair as a storyteller. I arrived at what you could call a composite portrait of a self.’ Whittled down with a fiercely singular artistry, Kick the Latch bangs out of the starting gate and carries the reader on a careening joyride around the inside track.


‘Wonderful . . . an unforgettable, tough, direct voice, brilliantly captured . . . I’d never imagined I’d read and love a book about a mid-west horsetrainer.’ –David Nicholls

‘Scanlan’s harsh, funny, beautifully sad novel is unlike any other I’ve read this year – and twice as good.’ –Chris Power, Summer Reads, Sunday Times

‘Masterfully precise . . . Every sentence seems to pull behind it an invisible weight of information and emotion.’ –Literary Review

‘Lean, tense . . . bursting with sheer life.’ –Lucy Caldwell

‘Brimming with life.’ –Observer

‘A series of taut, electrifying vignettes . . . by turns exultant and brutal.’ –LA Review of Books

‘An engrossing peek into the world of equestrian sport.’ –Big Issue

‘Genius! Future classic, current revelation.’ –Amy Key

‘A spare and powerful account of a life with horses.’ –New Statesman

‘Utterly fresh, shimmery as a dragonfly . . . Ridiculously good.’ –Kerri ní Dochartaigh

‘Kick the Latch performs the trick of turning a life, with its practicalities and speed, into art, and does so with particular charm, will, and intensity.’ –Lucie Elven

‘A revelation in its unadorned, unromantic, plain power.’ –Andrew McMillan

‘I was absolutely blown away . . . It’s so much more than a skilled act of ventriloquism, it is a finely-wrought work of art that takes one person’s life and expands it to create something wondrous and universal. The pages I read seemed to capture all that is vital to human existence.’ –Tash Aw

‘Kick the Latch is pure exhilaration. No one works with fineness, with exactitude, with the beating heart of fiction and of life, quite like Kathryn Scanlan.’ –Amina Cain

‘Kathryn Scanlan has performed a magical act of empathic ventriloquy in Kick the Latch. This immediate, engrossing immersion in another life and world, so personally and passionately told, is compulsively readable.’ –Lydia Davis

Kathryn Scanlan’s work has appeared in NOON, Granta, Egress and New York Tyrant amongst others. She's received fellowships from the Vermont...