Cover Image: Big Swiss

Big Swiss

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Member Reviews

Originally I enjoyed this book for its totally quirky, strange storyline that keeps you on your toes - I also liked the queer rep. Unfortunately though, the author has been called out for racism within the text in more than instance towards Asian folks and her response was essentially that she didn't care. I find this very unsettling so I cannot in good conscience recommend the book.

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'Big Swiss' is a funny and eccentric novel about the different ways people process trauma. It has such interesting and complex characters, and the novel is written with a dry sense of humour which keeps the book from feeling too dark, despite its dark themes.

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This book was not for me. I'm grateful to Netgalley and the publisher for the chance to read it. It has plenty of great reviews so it's possible I didn't really get it.

Big Swiss is Greta's name for Flavia, one of the clients of the weird, gong loving sex therapist for whom she transcribes sessions in an eclectic, boho town north of New York City.. Greta, a lost soul who has moved there from LA after a break up, becomes infatuated listening to Big Swiss, a married physician with a beautiful body, sharp voice and a stony persona who suffered a terrible assault years earlier. Eventually they meet at a local dog park and begin an affair. For purposes of the affair, Greta calls herself Rebekah and doesn't reveal that she knows Big Swiss from her sex therapy transcriptions. Greta lives in a broken down once glorious old house, complete with duct taped windows and a bee hive that has overtaken the kitchen and she has trauma of her own including her mother's death when she was young.

Many other reviewers have seen this book as funny and dark. For sure, it's dark. The characters are overdone and larger than life and that's likely the point that worked for many but not so much for me.

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An amazing set up for such a fun, complex plot! A transcriber for a sex and relationship therapist in the quirky small town of Hudson, NY becomes fascinated by a patient she nicknames Big Swiss. Big Swiss experienced a near-death assault years ago, but is insistent on not being defined as a victim because of her past trauma. Rather, she would like to discuss her inability to orgasm by herself or with her husband. Greta, the transcriber, really resonates with her insistence on overcoming her trauma by not letting it define her because and is drawn to Big Swiss when she recognizes her at a dog park. Their entanglement becomes a torrid sapphic love affair that balances intensity and tenderness. The relationship blossoms beautifully and really explores authentic queer sexuality. Beagin has such an interesting perspective on trauma and how it can be apart of our story, but we are more defined by our own actions than the actions of others. However, the quirky humor was not for me and Greta's ending disappointingly fell flat. Thank you to NetGalley and Scribner for a copy in return for an honest review!

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I honestly still don't know what to make of this book, and in talking to others about it, that seems to be a common experience. I ended up listening to it on audio, which I think really worked to bring the voices to life. I was definitely captivated by this story, by these messy, confusing characters, and by the absurdity and tragedy of their lives. But when I finished, my overall feeling was that I just didn't know what I was supposed to think or feel. Was I supposed to be left with the unresolved feeling I had? Was this just a character study and meditation on trauma? I think I enjoyed it, and it definitely succeeded in keeping me thinking about it!

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Did this book live up to all the social media hype I’ve been hearing? Not really, but it was good.

Big Swiss is an odd, hilarious story about an affair that’s doomed from the start. Beagin tackles some pretty stark, serious topics with absurdist and off-the-wall humor. The thing that made this book for me was the writing. The choice of words, pacing, and format all worked together to recreate a tale as old as time into something wholly unique, which is, in a way, a reflection of our own lived experiences, isn’t it?

Piñon was the star of the show because he reminded me of my own insane dog. There’s a very intense scene that involves violence toward animals, and I totally skipped over those pages. So, animal lovers, beware.

Overall, this is a well-written novel with interesting, flawed characters that is enjoyable and difficult (in a good way). I'm definitely interested in reading Beagin's other work.

Other content warnings for suicidal ideation, SA, suicide, and stalking.

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The first word that comes to mind for this book is quirky, much like the main character, Greta. Greta is a transcriptionist for a sex therapist who begins to transcribe the sessions of a woman she nicknames “Big Swiss”. Greta begins to fall for Big Swiss and then, one day, she meets her in person. Panicking, she calls herself Rebekah and the two embark on a torrid affair. The cast of supporting characters in this book are not to go without mention as they had me laughing as I read. There’s Sabine, Greta’s housemate/landlord, who makes edibles in their ancient house that happens to be infested with dying bees. Om, the sex therapist, who’s methods of therapy, are unconventional. I found this book touching but also hilarious and bizarre.

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“My triggers are covered in wet sand because my head is a giant cement mixer.”
Loved this messy, chaotic story with an unlikeable narrator and just about the most interesting pitch of all time. Never did I expect to fully know what's going on and that was exactly the right way to go into this. It's not confusing in a plot way — that's just how the characters are. Loved it.

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I really enjoyed this one! I've read some of Jen Beagin's other novels and enjoyed them so I was looking forward to this one.

My favorite part about it was the sheer uniqueness of the story. In a world where stories and tropes are often reused in the same ways, I found Beagin's novel so refreshing and unique.

Fans of Melissa Broder and Ottessa Moshfegh will definitely enjoy this one.

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This novel about a sex therapist's sessions was big and buzzy but it did not land for me. I can see the appeal, but I found it cringey.

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This novel was both slow and fast at the same time. I kept wanting to read and also felt like it was slogging. Ultimately it was unlike anything I’d ever read before but I still really liked it.

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QUICK TAKE: I’ve had a surprising number of people reach out asking for my review on BIG SWISS, and all I can tell you is I loved every second of it. BIG SWISS is WILD, ya’ll, and it is 100% not going to be for a lot of you. But if you like weird, complex (and somewhat unlikable) characters and left-of-center humor, this one is worth it. This is for sure going to be a polarizing book, but fans of VLADIMIR (a JBC Top Ten fave of 2022) should run -not walk- to get their hands on a copy. All the stars.

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I feel like I may be in the minority of folks who didn’t find this book “hilarious.” I know this is a me problem, though, as I don’t find absurdist fiction funny in general, as it is meant to be.

That said, the redeeming quality of this novel, which allowed me to actually enjoy it, was the raw honesty of its characters. In a lot of cases, our characters spoke completely unfiltered, oftentimes resulting in what a “normal person” would consider cruelty or complete deviation from socially acceptable behaviors. While what they were saying may have been absolutely unhinged, a lot of the dialogue felt like the internal monologues we have of the conversations we wish we could have with other people.

Would I widely recommend this book to everyone? No, not in the slightest. But this would definitely appeal to folks who enjoy absurd literature where the plot takes a backseat in order to let the weirdness shine.

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Big Swiss. A book about sex therapy, drugs, bees, love and dogs. Essentially all the elements that make us human (kidding). It's a coming of age story that will makes you laugh out loud. It features a cast of characters that are unforgettable. Not to mention that many situations they are put into.

*It's important for me to also note that the style in which Jen Beagin writes in especially with the transcribing by the main character Greta is a fascinating. I had never read a book with an author using transcribing of sex therapy as character development.

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This book did not hold my attention and I did not finish it at 19%. I was originally drawn to the premise: that a sex therapist's transcriptionist falls in love with a client, while listening to their sessions. I really wanted to love this, but I think maybe I wasn't in the right frame of mind. I couldn't finish the book.

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Thank you to NetGalley and Scribner for allowing me to read this ARC!

Content Warning: suicide, misogyny, homophobia, rape (mentioned, off-page), eating disorders, violence, stalking, animal cruelty, racism.

Greta lives in an old Dutch farmhouse, working as a transcriber for a "sex and relationship coach" in Hudson, New York. She's also a mess. Listening in on people's therapy sessions hasn't done much for her own mental health, but she gets a kick out of it nonetheless, and she's particularly captivated by one of her boss's new clients. Greta calls her Big Swiss (owing to the fact that she's tall and from Switzerland) and for Greta, listening to her sessions is somehow cathartic -- they both have experienced major traumas in their lives, but their ways of coping are about as opposite as you can get. One day, Greta hears a familiar voice as she's at the dog park, and when she realizes it's Big Swiss in the flesh, she quickly introduces herself -- not as Greta, but Rebekah. As the two of them become tangled up in a messy, intense relationship, Greta is forced to face the demons of her past and some of the demons in her present, too.

Let me start off by saying that Big Swiss is not my usual kind of book. I decided to give it a go, mainly because I love messy female protagonists with a dark, dry sense of humor (and the lesbian relationship is a plus, too!), but I think it's only fair to mention this before I properly begin my review. Some people have likened Beagin's style to Otessa Moshfegh, and as I'm a big fan of her books, I thought, why not? It's always good to broaden your horizons. Unfortunately, in this case, I probably should've trusted the hesitation I felt.

The biggest problem I have is with the two main characters, Greta and Flavia (the titular Big Swiss). At first, I was intrigued by their dynamic, and I even found them oddly charming in some situations, but as the novel progressed, I quickly grew tired of their flakiness, their inability to be kind to one another, and, head and shoulders above the rest, the lack of chemistry between them. It was difficult to understand why they put up with each other, and what attracted them to one another in the first place. Although the 'why' is repeatedly spelled out for us, it doesn't really make sense with the actual interactions we see on-page. Big Swiss, in particular, is not a likable or even interesting character to me. Why Greta is so instantaneously infatuated with her is really anybody's guess.

There's a lot of social commentary here, but most of it falls flat. It's the usual type of dry humor, making fun of everyone for everything, and to put it simply, it's boring. I also don't think that this book is quite as funny as it thinks it is, and instead of laughing or feeling tickled by a lot of the things intended to be funny, I was mostly left cringing. Greta is tactless, almost to the point of stupidity or naivete, and although she's forty-five, I had to continuously remind myself that she wasn't actually meant to be a vapid teenager or twenty-something.

There's also really no plot to speak of. The ending is a bit disappointing; it feels like a lot of build-up for nothing. I didn't hate this book, but reading it felt like filler, like waiting for something meaningful to happen. Also, there's a lot of casual racism, and I wasn't a huge fan of the way the book handled Greta's questioning of her sexuality, nor did I like some of Big Swiss's comments about lesbianism (the whole "I could never be a lesbian" thing was just kind of weird).

All in all, not my cup of tea, but judging by the very high ratings this book has gotten, I might be the odd one out.

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Big Swiss takes big leaps and chances. While its story can feel specific with its slapstick nature, at times it does feel just as reckless as a reader. While overall I found the read satisfying, the reading experience felt a bit disorientating, which may have been the point. If so, perhaps I'm just the incorrect audience for the book, but I'm just glad the book itself is interesting amidst its contemporaries, certainly memorable if anything.

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This felt very similar, to me, to Motherthing. A little /a lot perverse, uncomfortable, gross but fascinating and a compulsive read. Not sure who to recommend it to!

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This book was crazy town! But so fun and really kept my interest to the end. Bravo to the author on a story that is different and captivating, funny and sad at the same time!

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✨ Review ✨ Big Swiss by Jen Beagin

This is kind of indescribable so just read it!


It gave me similar vibes as Vladimir, where all kinds of bonkers things were happening and it was digging deep into deconstructing ideas of sexuality and mental health, and love and relationships; and it left you just with your mouth hanging open.

Greta is a transcriptionist for a local sex therapist, and the book intersperses narrative with excerpts from these transcripts. She is intrigued with a woman she calls Big Swiss because of her accent, and they end up meeting in the real world. As Greta grapples with the ethics of hiding her knowledge of Big Swiss's life from the transcripts, their relationship continues to grow. What's left is something that's surprising and unusual and you kind of can't stop gaping at it all.

This review doesn't do this book justice, but I loved the weirdness. It's a book that's so unusual that not everyone will enjoy it, but if you like weird things (e.g. Vladimir, Motherthing), you might like this!

Genre: literary fiction
Location: Hudson, NY
Reminds me of: Vladimir meets Motherthing (but without the horror/gore)
Pub Date: out now!

Thanks to Scribner and #netgalley for an advanced e-copy of this book!

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