Mouthing Reviews


A reading guide for Mouthing the Words is available at

Mouthing the Words tells Thelma’s story through to adulthood, in a novel that is by turns harrowing, terrible and wonderfully funny. This is an inspiring fictional debut, written with a deftness and precision that is extraordinary. A cult novel in the making.

‘Gibb’s prose is elegant and sings with an almost Victorian delicacy and sophistication: Dickens, interrupted.’ San Francisco Chronicle

‘Gibb scales her story small, twists her sentences into prickly, unsentimental assaults and ends up with a portrait of terrible, comic humanity.’ The New York Times

‘Mouthing the Words rings with an authority rarely found in first novels. By dint of Gibb’s lush, visceral prose, Mouthing the Words persuasively charts one woman’s journey back to wholeness.’ The Washington Post

‘Camilla Gibb’s combination of real insight and deranged detail makes this novel moving and comic at once. Thelma’s words are hallucinatory, hilarious, and haunting.’ The Boston Globe

‘A novel of astonishing power; this book is a journey of such searing pain and courage that my mind was driven back to Dante.’ The Baltimore Sun

“Brilliant and unsettling: one of the creepiest coming-of-age stories since THE BUTCHER BOY.” Kirkus Reviews

‘A bold and ambitious debut from a writer who sows the seeds of great promise.’

Daily Express

‘An arresting study of a doomed and stolen childhood.’ The Sunday Times

‘It’s sassy, it’s smart… Go Girl!’ Jeanette Winterson (on what’s she’s reading)

‘An incredible debut written with the authority and brilliance of a seasoned writer.’ The Sydney Morning Herald

‘[an] excellent novel… standing out in strikingly different style… stylish… offers only the most telling of… desperate and funny details and a tentative happily ever after that is not false or forced’


‘Lock the doors, take the ‘phone off the hook… for an inspiring and incredibly moving story that deserves your full attention.’

The List

‘A beautiful first novel… Funny, ironic and horrifying by turns… Reminiscent of Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, this is a wry, uplifting account of the survival of the human spirit.’ Sainsbury’s magazine

‘Her tales of growing up in Canada with neglectful parents are both funny and alarming… Gibb seduces the reader with sparky prose and charming storylines before drawing us onto a heart-wrenching roller-coaster ride through one breakdown after another.’ The Guardian

‘a novel that manages to be both harrowing and hilarious.’Belfast Telegraph


‘[a] startling debut…You won’t find a more passionate voice than… in… the pages of… Gibb’s bristling debut novel… If it weren’t for Gibb’s smart, punchy prose – a smashing combination of the heartbreaking and the hilarious – this might have been a sad story… [But] Gibb is too smart and the novel is far too compelling… to be dismissed as another tale of torment. Instead, she challenges both the reader and narrator, eliciting an examination of the self – the good, the bad, the pleasure, the pain, and the unrelenting humor that exists in all of us.’ Vogue

‘Gibb describes the fallout from childhood sexual abuse with painful intensity… an insightful and humane exploration of the space between reason and imagination.’ The Times

‘spectacular prose… this novel speaks to something in every woman.’ Out of the Pen

‘Searing and often gruesomely funny… the ultimately heartening tale of a girl’s journey through sexual abuse, anorexia and madness.’

Big Issue

‘a fabulous celebration of a young human being’s ability to not just cope but live… shockingly refreshing… and funny! A cult novel in the making.’ Canada Post

‘This book will be legendary. You saw it here first… Camilla Gibb writes with the concentration of an open-heart surgeon and quietly strikes at immense reserves of feeling… essential reading.’ Ox2

‘a narrative blending painful confessions with objectivity, and humour with horror … a blend of perspectives that combines adult pain and childish terror with humour and with wisdom…[a] funny, poised, wise voice.’ Scotland on Sunday

‘A memorable debut.’ Daily Mirror

‘Gibb leads the reader through the horrors of Thelma’s childhood, her adult anorexia and borderline multiple personality disorder, with a wonderful combination of dry humour and no-nonsense narrative, which make this an astonishing debut novel…Her lyrical, gentle handling of her heroine, in particular, indicates a rare talent.’

‘despite this tortured sequence of events, Gibb makes the book cool and quirky, setting all the heartbreaking distress alight with brittle stabs of wry humour.’ Elle

‘Gibb successfully blends the harrowing with the hysterically funny and the heartbreaking with the heroic – without feeling the need for excess worthiness… If you enjoyed Margaret Atwood’s Catseye or Jeanette Winterson’s Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, buy this book now. You’ll be glad you did.’ B

‘An extraordinary piece of writing, both harrowing and, unlikely as it may seem, funny.’ Bookseller

‘Mouthing the Words follows Thelma through anorexia and multiple-personality disorder and out the other side. The Bell Jar is an obvious comparison, but Camilla Gibb gives to Thelma a breadth of spirit and a witty compassion that was not available to Sylvia Plath. Read it: it will change the way you see childhood for ever.’ Red

‘Singular, passionate, powerful and at times surprisingly funny… has a drive and intensity that are at times quite harrowing… most impressive.’ Bookseller

‘Gibb’s exquisite prose translates a harrowing world of child abuse, mental illness and institutionalism into the most startling, powerful imagery with such simplicity and directness that she leaves you in awe. The episodes in which this spirited, puritanical child clashes with the grown-up world are sometimes hilarious, always poignant, with occasionally heartbreaking results… Camilla Gibb’s debut novel Mouthing the Words is not only a testament to her ability as a writer but testimony of a voice that all too often goes unheard.’

‘A brilliantly imagined, adroitly narrated tale… “the deft wit and breathtaking precision that mark, with this book’s arrival, a dazzling new talent in the field of literary fiction.’

‘Gibb is as slyly deft with wit as she is with madness…dive into Thelma’s maligned, but fascinatingly rendered existence.’ Nylon

‘Camilla Gibb displays sure judgment and finesse in dealing with a brutal subject. She has a distinctive voice, but I think Lorrie Moore fans will admire her economy and wryness.’ Hilary Mantel

‘uniquely tackles family horrors with wit and verve suggestive of Wilde at his spirited best. Gibb’s narrative of a troubled childhood leaves you poised — sometimes within a single sentence — between laughter and heartbreak…a compelling journey ending in an admirably unsentimental redemption. I can’t improve on Tomson Highway’s succinct cover blurb: ‘An arresting new voice…Pay attention!’ Globe and Mail


‘[Gibb] writes about gut-wrenching issues in a gut-bustingly hilarious way…she stands poised to make a huge splash worldwide.’ Now Magazine (Canada)

‘the dark-humoured tale of a dysfunctional British family that emigrates to Toronto in the 1970s… one of the best books of 1999.’ Globe and Mail

‘[a] powerful and darkly comic novel.’

National Post (Canada)

‘Judging by the strength and intensity of her first novel, Camilla Gibb is already perfecting the art of finding beauty in foul places.’ Now Magazine (Canada)

‘Awesome first novel mixes trauma and wit.’ Now Magazine’s November 1999 Alt Best-Seller Lists

‘[this novel of] remarkable intelligence, wit and emotion is unlike anything you’ve ever read. Told from the point-of-view of a child, Mouthing the Words is a deeply heartfelt and courageous novel that offers insight as it reconstructs Thelma’s world. Gibb, a Toronto novelist, is an exciting new voice in Canadian fiction, treading new frontiers of what good fiction can really accomplish.’

‘Reminiscent of Sylvia Plath’s classic novel about adolescent madness, The Bell Jar.’ CBC Radio’s, The Arts Today

‘Gibb evokes an emotionally clenched, eccentric provenance for her characters…She traces the telltale, corrosive tropes of the abused with frankness, (and) writes movingly about the shadow world of the psychiatrized…’ Quill and Quire (Canada)

‘Very bold (and) incredibly funny. There are sections which are laugh-out-loud hilarious and read like stand-up comedy taken to surreal extreme.’ Xtra Magazine (Canada)

‘Funny and painful.’ Pamela Wallin