Synopses & Reviews
Short-listed for the Booker Prize
“Fitzgerald was the author of several slim, perfect novels. The Blue Flower and The Beginning of Spring both had me abuzz for days the first time I read them. She was curiously perfect.”— Teju Cole, author of Open City
“Writing so precise and lilting it can make you shiver.” — Los Angeles Times
March 1913. Moscow is stirring herself to meet the beginning of spring. English painter Frank Reid returns from work one night to find that his wife has gone away; no one knows where or why, or whether she’ll ever come back. All Frank knows for sure is that he is now alone and must find someone to care for his three young children.
Into Frank’s life comes Lisa Ivanovna, a quiet, calming beauty from the country, untroubled to the point of seeming simple. But is she? And why has Frank’s bookkeeper, Selwyn Crane, gone to such lengths to bring these two together?
This new edition features an introduction by Andrew Miller, author of Pure, along with new cover art.
"In another exploration of historical lacunae, Miller (Ingenious Pain) delves into pre-Revolutionary Paris, where a pestilential, ancient cemetery acts as metaphor for the blighted reign of King Louis XVI. Jean-Baptiste Baratte, a young Norman engineer who prides himself on his faculties of reason, is commissioned by the king's minister to close the centuries-old les Innocents cemetery, whose noxious sprawl threatens to poison adjacent neighborhoods. Jean-Baptiste moves in nearby and begins orchestrating the massive exhumation, hiring miners to dig up the thousands of bodies and cart away the bones. Among those whose lives will be changed by his commission are Jean-Baptiste's friend Armand, the organist at les Innocents' church; and HÃ©loÃ¯se, a literate prostitute, who becomes his mistress. But as the digging commences, unexpected complications arise: risk of cave-ins, infection, rats, bats, madness, fire, and the special danger posed by his landlords' vengeful daughter, Ziguette. Despite all obstacles, Jean-Baptiste forges on with his ghoulish task, but at what cost to reason? Although the book's dramas fail to coalesce, Miller recreates pre-Revolutionary Paris with astonishing verisimilitude, and through Jean-Baptiste, illuminates the years preceding le deluge. Agent: Zoe Pagnamenta. (July)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Jean-Baptiste Baratte, an engineer of modest origin, arrives in the city in 1785, charged by the King’s minister with emptying the overflowing cemetery of Les Innocents, a ancient site whose stench is poisoning the neighborhood’s air and water and leaving a vile taste in its inhabitants’ food. At first the ambitious Baratte sees his work as a chance to clear the burden of history, a fitting task for a modern man of reason. But before long he begins to suspect that the destruction of the cemetery might be a prelude to both his own demise and that of the monarchy. Baratte expects the task to be unpleasant but cannot foresee the dramas and calamities it will trigger, or the incident that will transform his life. As unrest against the court of Louis XVI mounts, the engineer realizes that the future he had planned may no longer be the one he wants. His assignment becomes a year of relentless work, exhuming of mummified corpses and listening to the chants of priests, a year of assault and sudden death. A year of friendship, too, and of desire and love. A year unlike any other he has lived.
Fitzgerald's novel of pre-revolutionary Moscow, shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Featuring an introduction by Andrew Miller.
About the Author
PENELOPE FITZGERALD wrote many books small in size but enormous in popular and critical acclaim over the past two decades. Over 300,000 copies of her novels are in print, and profiles of her life appeared in both The New Yorker and The New York Times Magazine. In 1979, her novel Offshore won Britain's Booker Prize, and in 1998 she won the National Book Critics Circle Prize for The Blue Flower. Though Fitzgerald embarked on her literary career when she was in her 60's, her career was praised as "the best argument.. for a publishing debut made late in life" (New York Times Book Review). She told the New York Times Magazine, "In all that time, I could have written books and I didn’t. I think you can write at any time of your life." Dinitia Smith, in her New York Times Obituary of May 3, 2000, quoted Penelope Fitzgerald from 1998 as saying, "I have remained true to my deepest convictions, I mean to the courage of those who are born to be defeated, the weaknesses of the strong, and the tragedy of misunderstandings and missed opportunities, which I have done my best to treat as comedy, for otherwise how can we manage to bear it?"ANDREW MILLER's first novel, Ingenious Pain, won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and the International IMPAC Award. He was short-listed for the Booker Prize and the Whitbread Award for his novel Oxygen. He lives in Brighton, England.