Poppy Cover (3 of 6).jpg
Poppy Cover (1 of 6).jpg
poppy shakespeare


​Who is mad? Who is sane? Who decides? Welcome to the Dorothy Fish, a day hospital in North London! N has been a patient here for thirteen years. Day after day she sits smoking in the common room, swapping medication and comparing MAD money rates. Like all the patients at the Dorothy Fish, N's chief ambition is never to get discharged. Each year when her annual assessment comes round, she is relieved to learn that she hasn't got any better. Then in walks Poppy Shakespeare in her six-inch skirt and twelve-inch heels. She is certain she isn't mentally ill and desperate to return to her life outside. Though baffled by Poppy's attitude, N agrees to help. Together they plot to gain Poppy's freedom. But in a world where everything's upside-down, are they crazy enough to upset the system?

Shortlisted for The Guardian First Book Award, The Orange Prize for New Writers and Mind Book of the Year. Longlisted for The Orange Prize for Fiction (now the Women's Prize) A Globe and Mail ‘Best Book’ of 2006.

Praise for Poppy Shakespeare

'It's not often you finish a first novel by a writer and you are seized by the need to read her second immediately'

Nick Hornby in Shakespeare Wrote for Money


A “stunning debut novel . . . so alive it practically sparks off the page."

The Globe & Mail


"What's most startling about Allan's gift as a novelist is her ability to give us both the story N wants to tell and the one just beyond her comprehension"

Tom Barbash in The New York Times


“The superlatives are all shabby with overuse. Brilliant and incisive. Stunningly original. Heartbreaking. Something new will have to be minted for Poppy Shakespeare and her author, Clare Allan. . . . This is a debut novel, but already Allan is a literary force to contend with, one of those rare, oh-too-rare, writers who can make your mind and heart and guts flip in simultaneous somersaults. Don't give this a miss. It's the real thing.”

Merilyn Simonds in The Montreal Gazette


“Catch-22 meets One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in a North London day hospital — Clare Allan’s Poppy Shakespeare is an electrifying debut... which bursts on to the page with a wholly original voice: surreal, raucous, infuriating and very funny.”

The Guardian


“Allan’s world isn’t quite right in the head, but is as real as a slap in the face. Her prose has an irresistible dark gumption reminiscent of Ali Smith. . . . As Allan . . . reminds us, you don’t have to be sane to see the funny side.”

The Times


“Poppy Shakespeare is a distinctive and powerful debut.... Allan has given us something indigestibly, potently true.”

Michel Faber in the Guardian


“Poppy Shakespeare has that rare quality: the feel of a book that needed to be written. . .  It is bitterly, brutally funny and extraordinarily moving. . . . .”

The Telegraph


'Funny, lyrical and deeply affecting ... Seize this passionate, unsettling, accomplished debut with both hands'

Lucy Beresford in The Spectator

“Here is a serious novel which portrays the mentally ill with both raucous humour and with an empathy altogether lacking in sentimentality. The pitch of the narrative voice is perfect, and the characters, in all their bravado, pathos and absurdity, feel utterly true to life. It is a brave and original piece of work.”

Patrick McGrath, author of Spider and Asylum