I’m a Fan is a gripping and addictive novel that delves into themes of obsession, gender, power and race within a relationship. The unnamed narrator is a 30-year-old London-based arts freelancer, who becomes entangled in an unequal romantic affair.
The narrator’s infatuation centres on two individuals: “the man I want to be with” and the “woman I am obsessed with,” who is also involved with the man.
“I stalk a woman on the internet who is sleeping with the same man as I am. Sometimes when I am too quick to look at her stories, I block her temporarily so she doesn’t know I absent-mindedly refresh her page fifteen times a minute while Netflix plays in the background on my laptop, my stomach flipping sick with delight when her profile picture is ringed red. She has tens of thousands of followers, is verified and is the daughter of someone famous in America. An endless stream of white people fawn in the comments under her posts. She has opinions about household objects which I have never given a thought to before; firm taste in the types of beeswax candles to burn, lays exquisite cloth on her table in anticipation of dinner, knows where to buy limited edition pottery from well-regarded potters, she will happily spend $300 on a vase where she displays really, really organic fennel flowers, by which she says there is organic and then organic, buys a $500 ring for herself during a time of financial strife for the rest of the world and shows it off in a selfie.”
Author Sheena Patel skilfully draws connections between power struggles in personal relationships and those in the wider world, including a scathing critique of social media and patriarchal systems.
Meanwhile, the narrator’s personal life is intertwined with her desire for professional success and the challenges she encounters within a cultural system that excludes her.
The compelling narrative is intense and divided into short chapters, contrasting with the narrator’s internalised rage. Despite offering no clear resolutions, this novel succeeds with the narrator's ability to analyse the toxic structures she finds herself trapped in. For example, she recognises the potential destruction caused by her involvement and strives to avoid becoming the person she doesn’t want to be.
It’s certainly a thought-provoking exploration of obsession and power with sharp social commentary.
Sheena Patel is a writer and assistant director for film and TV from London. In 2022 she was chosen as one of the Observer's Top 10 best debut novelists. This is her first novel.
Reviewer: Andrea Molloy Granta