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The Shards review: Bret Easton Ellis’s return to form

In his new novel The Shards, Bret Easton Ellis has come of age, with his most conventional – and personal – work to date

There are few authors who can split opinion like Bret Easton Ellis. Bursting onto the literary scene at just 21 years old with Less Than Zero, he found himself at the centre of a moral panic in 1991 when the publication of his novel American Psycho was greeted with protests and accusations of misogyny. This didn’t stop the novel from going on to become a modern classic, however. Ellis has been somewhat quiet on the book front in recent years.

His last novel, 2010’s Imperial Bedrooms, garnered the most varied reviews of his career and he has spent most of the last 13 years writing screenplays of, once again, varying success. When news came at the end of 2022 that Ellis was releasing a new novel, The Shards, it was hailed as the great return of a master. So, has it been worth the wait? 

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Thankfully, yes. Very much in the mould of his mid-00s novel Lunar Park, The Shards is another fictionalised account of Ellis’s life, this time set in the very early 1980s. Ellis and his friends are high school students who, in typical Ellis style, like to party, do drugs, and listen to the Go-Go’s. Their fun is quickly halted however when a slew of violent murders, all of which seem to eerily revolve around Ellis’s friend group, spark paranoia and suspicion throughout the Valley. 

The Shards by Bret Easton Ellis

Reading The Shards you get a sense that Ellis is very much in a new stage of his writing career. It is both the most conventional novel he’s ever written, and his most personal. He has stated that he has been trying to write this novel for 40 years, the idea for it coming to him before Less Than Zero even. And one does wonder how this novel would have looked if brash young upstart Ellis had managed to pen it, rather than the more mellow novelist we have today. But The Shards is still a treat. Ellis is less interested in the shock tactics of his past and more interested in producing a Novel, and the result absolutely pays off. 

The Shards by Bret Easton Ellis is out on January 17 (Swift, £25). You can buy it from The Big Issue shop on Bookshop.org, which helps to support The Big Issue and independent bookshops.

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