Charlotte Runcie is a radio critic and senior arts columnist at a national newspaper, having spent years in the culture trenches reviewing shows at the Edinburgh Festival. A graduate of Cambridge University, Charlotte was longlisted for the 2023 Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize and Bridport Prize, and was a Foyle Young Poet of the Year. Her non-fiction book Salt on Your Tongue(Canongate, 2019) was BBC Radio 4’s Book of the Week, selling into multiple territories and reviewed to widespread acclaim.
Her fiction debut, Bring the House Down, sold to Borough Press UK, Doubleday US and Penguin CA in heated multi-way auctions for a 2025 release.
Alex Lyons, son of national treasure actress Dame Judith Lyons, is a handsome newspaper theatre critic with the world at his feet. Hayley Sinclair is a nobody. A struggling actress, her one-woman show at the Edinburgh Fringe is going to be her biggest break yet.
But Alex has watched her show and, thinking it a hopelessly tedious and derivative bore, dashes off a particularly vicious, career-ending one-star review.
Later that same night, they meet at a bar and Hayley goes home with him, unaware of who he is. The next morning, Alex’s colleague Sophie accidentally shows her his hatchet job in the newspaper.
Humiliated by Alex’s deception, Hayley responds by revamping her whole show into a furious one-star review of Alex’s entire life. The show rapidly becomes a national sensation, sparking a wider reckoning for misogyny in the media and the arts.
It’s not long before Alex becomes the most hated man in the country.
Which is a big surprise to Alex, because the way he sees it, he has done absolutely nothing wrong. And he will do whatever it takes to stay on top.
Narrated by Sophie, who becomes increasingly complicit in Alex’s downfall, this novel is ultimately a love letter to the arts: the passion and unpredictability involved, but also a critique on the power dynamics and misogyny within this world, and its toxic review culture. It prompts bigger questions about nepo babies and asks: who actually has the power to determine what is good or bad art? And what happens when that person abuses this power?