NANCY, PLEASE tells the story of Paul Brawley, a young, gifted, aimless PhD candidate at Yale University. Paul has just moved into an apartment with his competent, pragmatic girlfriend, Jen, and is struggling to complete his dissertation before embarking on a career in academia. Adulthood looms; responsibility beckons.
There’s just one snag: as Paul is unpacking his belongings, he discovers that something has been left behind. A seemingly inconsequential object, but one Paul feels is of great importance to his dissertation and, therefore, to his future: a battered, personally annotated hardcover copy of Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens. He will have to retrieve it from his former roommate – the obstinate, casually sinister Nancy.
Paul contacts Nancy, but she will not cooperate. She blithely thwarts Paul’s clumsy and increasingly frantic efforts to retrieve his book. What should be the simplest of errands becomes intolerably difficult. Paul’s jocular, enabling buddy, Charlie, eggs him on, reinforcing his inflated sense of persecution.
Caught between an impatient girlfriend and an equally impatient thesis advisor, Paul starts to lose his grip. His annoyance turns to rage and then to obsession. As he becomes increasingly consumed with the retrieval of Little Dorrit — and with his romantic image of himself as the victim of a wanton injustice — Paul’s relationship and career begin to unravel.
His life will get much, much worse before it gets better.
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