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A. L. Kennedy, Author
A. L. Kennedy, Author . Knopf $25.95 (560p) ISBN 978-0-375-40791-8
Hardcover - 567 pages - 978-0-224-04433-2
Open Ebook - 438 pages - 978-0-307-42579-9
Open Ebook - 576 pages - 978-1-4464-0196-5
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Scottish novelist Kennedy (So I Am Glad; Original Bliss) sets her seventh book on bleakly romantic Foal Island on the coast of Wales, home to the Fellowship, possibly the world's most unusual and most hazardous writers' colony. The novel opens with an arresting scene: Nathan Staples, a commercially successful but artistically failed novelist, is in the process of hanging himself. Nathan survives, and decides instead to bring Mary, now 19, the daughter he hasn't seen since she was four, to the island on a writing fellowship. Mary Lamb makes the seventh member of the Fellowship, and she has no idea that Nathan is her father, or why she was chosen for her stipend or, for much of her residency on Foal Island, the nature of the Fellowship and their odd frequency of incidents "in the risk-taking area." Kennedy is richly, boldly imaginative, both in the scenes she conceives and in the language and images she uses to convey them, alternating exposition with internal monologue and scraps of manuscript and winding from one arresting figure of speech to the next. Foal Island is much closer to Prospero's Isle than it is to the London literary scene—which Kennedy excoriates with lacerating wit ("This is what hell will be like, you know?" says one editor about to leave a London publisher's party. "In heaven there are many mansions and in hell there are many houses—all of them publishing"). Kennedy's complex, prickly and uncompromising quest for an understanding of the life of the spirit draws her into dark waters, but she keeps a tenacious hold on warmer truths, too—the human heat-seeking instinct is at the generous heart of her tale. (July 26)

Forecast:This is Kennedy's biggest, most ambitious work yet, and one of the most important literary novels of the summer. Expect prominent reviews (likely a few cover pieces) and healthy sales.

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