Out on 24 June 2021


Bette Howland

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24 June 2021
224 pages

'W-3 is one hell of a debut' Lucy Scholes, Paris Review

'Remarkably perceptive and wise' Katy Waldman, New Yorker

'Howland is finally getting the recognition that she deserves
' Sarah Hughes, iNews

W-3 is a small psychiatric ward in a large university hospital, a world of pills and passes dispensed by an all-powerful staff, a world of veteran patients with grab-bags of tricks, a world of disheveled, moment-to-moment existence on the edge of permanence.

Bette Howland was one of those patients. In 1968, Howland was thirty-one, a single mother of two young sons, struggling to support her family on the part-time salary of a librarian; and labouring day and night at her typewriter to be a writer. One afternoon, while staying at her friend Saul Bellow’s apartment, she swallowed a bottle of pills. W-3 is both an extraordinary portrait of the community of Ward 3 and a record of a defining moment in a writer’s life. The book itself would be her salvation: she wrote herself out of the grave.

This beautiful edition features an original introduction by Yiyun Li, author of Where Reasons End.

‘For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin—real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way. Something to be got through first, some unfinished business; time still to be served, a debt to be paid. Then life could begin. At last it had dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.’

A devastating memoir . . . Reading it now, what stands out is how bracingly modern it feels – Howland’s sharp portraits of her fellow patients, the unsparing eye she turns on herself, her refusal to look away from daily humiliations . . . Howland is finally getting the recognition that she deserves.

Sarah Hughes, iNews

There’s no more interesting tale of neglect and rediscovery than that of Bette Howland . . . W-3 is one hell of a debut . . . It offers us a portal to a particular time and place, yet the compassion and truthfulness that underlies the writing renders it timeless, as urgent a read now as when it was first written nearly half a century ago.

Lucy Scholes, Paris Review

Full of calibrated grace, and startlingly unmediated . . . [W-3] is remarkably perceptive and wise

Katy Waldman, New Yorker