Synopses & Reviews
A bold and exciting literary novel set in South Africa that contemplates the elusive line between truth and self-perception.
Ambitious and assured, Absolution propels the reader to the final page in a drive to discover the secrets and truths at its core. How or why did a young anti-apartheid activist disappear twenty years earlier? How does that event link the present-day characters? And how does it explain the choices they have made or the lies they may tell themselves?
Absolution is a big-idea novel about the pitfalls of memory, the ramifications of censorship, and the ways we are silently complicit in the problems around us. Its also a devastating, intimate, and stunningly woven story. Told in shifting perspectives, it centers on the mysterious character of Clare Wald, a controversial South African writer of great fame, haunted by the memories of a sister she fears she betrayed to her death and a daughter she fears she abandoned. Clare comes to learn that in this conflict the dead do not stay buried, and the missing return in other forms such as the child witness of her daughters last days who has reappeared twenty years later as Clare's official biographer, prompting an unraveling of history and a search for forgiveness. Part literary thriller, part meditation on the responsibility of the individual under totalitarianism, this is a masterpiece of rich, complicated characters and narration that captures the reader and does not let go.
“[An] uncommonly thought-provoking first novel…richly imaginative….Patrick Flanery is an exceptionally gifted and intelligent novelist and he is just getting started.” The New Yorker
"Flanery has talent to spare, and hes a talent to keep an eye on." The New York Times Book Review
"With a sure grasp...[Flanery] manages to navigate his narrative through twists and turns and stunning revelations that cast new light on characters and situations already delineated with insight and subtlety." The Wall Street Journal
"Flanery is a talented prose stylist, and he deserves comparison to big names like Philip Roth and Margaret Atwood. This is a complex and ambitious novel in a grand tradition, that dares to ask questions about censorship, memory, and political responsibility, all while maintaining a very human story of loss and forgiveness at its core. South Africa and its many familiar contradictions have gone under-represented in American literature, but this impressive book will go a long way towards amending that deficit." The Daily Beast
"Absolution serves as proof, if any were needed, that a novel can be both unashamedly literary and compellingly readable — Man Booker judges, take note." The Financial Times
"Absolution is a beautifully crafted novel....[Flanery's] novel has some obvious similarities to works by South African authors, notably Nadine Gordimer and J.M. Coetzee. Yet Absolution is no pastiche. Flanerys writing is graceful and rich in imagery. The novel moves like a thriller: The reader will be eager to discover how much Sam and Clare recall. At the same time, it explores complicated issues such as the impact of violence and the long-term effects of apartheid with an ethical gravity. Absolution is a must read for anyone interested in South Africa, or in literary fiction of the finest kind." Bookpage
"Told from alternating points of view, the novel shifts from unsettled present to bloody past, from today's fractured economic and social environment to the historic struggle to end apartheid....Flanery has constructed a haunting labyrinth of mirrors, fact reflecting remembrance, lie reflecting evasion. Complex in theme, complex in narrative, this is a masterful literary exploration of the specter of conscience and the formidable cost of reconciliation." Kirkus (starred)
"Patrick Flanery's debut novel costructs a mosaic of South Africa...as powerfully described here as in any book by JM Coetzee or Damon Galgut....This is an exceptionally intelligent, multi-layered novel encompassing politics, history, a gripping storyline, and complex characters. It has absorbing depictions of grief, guilt, parenthood, and sibling rivalry, and is beautifully written. The prose is lucid and strong, scenes of crime are full of suspense, and time and again phrases haunt with their imagery....Absolution is an exceptional book.” The Independent
A renowned, reclusive grand dame of South African literature, Clare Wald has surprised everyone by choosing an unknown, Sam Leroux, to be her official biographer — allowing him into her home, and her life. Sam has his own reasons for accepting the position: he has followed Clare’s career obsessively for motives known only to him. Throughout their meetings neither Clare nor Sam acknowledges the deeply personal past that links them, but as their relationship unfolds, each begins to realize that the other knows more than he or she has let on. The key lies with Clare’s daughter Laura, whose disappeared twenty years earlier shine a powerful light on the elusive nature of truth and memory, forcing us to reconsider all we’d previously believed to be true.
About the Author
Patrick Flanery was born in California, and raised in Omaha, Nebraska. He received his doctorate from the University of Oxford. He lives in London.