The Large Door, or What I found in Amsterdam


My second novel, The Large Door, is published by Boiler House Press in Norwich, as part of their debut full-length fiction list, also including books by Ruby Cowling, Ben Borek and Henrietta Rose-Innes. We had launches in Norwich and London. Here we all are.


Nathan Hamilton (ed), me, Henrietta Rose-Innes, Philip Langeskov (ed), Ruby Cowling, Ben Borek

The Large Door is a sad comedy of language and desire that grew out of a collision between an earlier published short story (‘Festschrift’, in Gorse) and Brigid Brophy’s novel The Snow Ball. I wrote more about the book’s beginnings and inception in a blog post here.

Here is what some people have said about it:

Clever and seductive, The Large Door blends all the ambiguity of a classic Dutch interior painting with contemporary academic bitchery and a very real, and human, quest for love. To read it is like looking into a convex mirror of challenging and constantly changing perspectives. – Catherine Taylor, writer and critic

An absorbing and deeply satisfying book. It captures what it’s like to feel adrift, confused, and panicked at a hinge moment in life; it also evokes the pain and melancholy that can accompany desire. All this in prose that is brisk, gleaming, and precise. Utterly compelling. – Katherine Angel, author of Unmastered, A Book on Desire, Most Difficult to Tell

A compelling novel in which forensic social observation merges with an ingenious exploration of contemporary ideas and theories. – Richard Beard, author of Acts of the Assassins

An early review of the book came from Daniel Davis Wood, on This is Splice, entitled ‘Satire, Opening onto Sincerity‘. It is a seriously impressive critical assessment, coming in at over 4,000 words, and looking incisively at its workings, its politics and its thematic construction. Here’s his Wood’s assessment:

When The Large Door is set beside the monumental Randall, I imagine there will be an inclination for some readers to diminish its lasting value, to conceive of it as chamber music within earshot of a symphony. In a certain sense it may be so, and ultimately I do still feel that Randall is the better novel, but when I take pause and think twice, there’s a thought I keep coming back to. It’s this: if there’s a sense of achievement to a novel like Randall, given that it amply delivers on its promise of sprawling iconoclasm, there’s a similar sense to The Large Door, given the way it purports to offer pleasures of a more restrained sort and yet manages to invest them with unexpected depths of significance. Like the painting Jenny admires, its meaning overflows the limitations of its form. Despite its slimness, to look up from its pages and away from its words is to find oneself looking at a world that still bears the impression of its questions.

It is, frankly, wonderful to read such an incisive and generous response to my book. There are spoilers of sorts in the review, but I wouldn’t won’t to stop anybody reading it.

(Nina Allen wrote an interesting response to Daniel’s piece here.)

Here’s a second review, from Chris Deerin, in The Big Issue.

Speaking, touching, looking, moving, texting, hiding: these form Gibbs’s toolkit as he examines the ways in which we communicate – and avoid communicating – with one another […] The Large Door has echoes throughout of Saul Bellow’s famous line that “Death is the dark backing that a mirror needs if we are to see anything.” But it is also very, very funny – Gibbs doesn’t miss the chance for a bit of campus-novel preposterousness. I can’t think of many authors who are capable of doing so many things so well, all at once.