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Orange-Prize winner Valerie Martin returns with a powerful novel about love, sex and the perils of playing a role too well.
In the seamy theatre world of 1970s New York, where rents are cheap and love is free, aspiring actor Edward Day joins his friends for a summer weekend on the New Jersey Shore. But something happens - and Edward's life will never be the same again. He is saved from drowning by the mysterious Guy Margate, a man with whom he shares both a marked physical resemblance and an implacable attraction to the beautiful, talented, neurotic Madeleine. Ever after, in encounters provoked by envy and resentment, Edward is torn between his desire for Madeleine and his indebtedness to Guy.
Professional and personal jealousies come to a head when Edward is cast opposite Madeleine in an acclaimed production of Uncle Vanya, their respective roles painfully mirroring the reality of their personal situations. As the sexual tensions of the play spill over outside the theatre walls, Guy - Edward's reluctant saviour and now Madeleine's husband - makes the ultimate act of protest...
Cool, assured, intricate. Take your pick. Valerie Martin is one wily writer. Trust her, though. Take her hand and drop down through the shingles of the human psyche and see there what you will... Edward's narrating voice is clean, open, fastidiously observant, a perfect pitch for that strange window in the 1970s when anything seemed possible. - The Sydney Morning Herald
A sexy psychological slice of life, about real people with recognizable fears and common desires. - InStyle
'One of Martin's best novels yet, a book full of warmth and intrigue whose pages do all but turn themselves.' - The Weekend Australian
A dark and brilliant novel... It drips with the suspense of a Hitchcock thriller, though with mordant insight into the psychology of actors, and the performative aspects of human behaviour. - The Age
Valerie Martin is a goddess. Her prose is so sharp, intense and wickedly witty, you'll whip through this story like lightning... Glamour, intrigue and passions run high in this scintillating novel. - EASY LIVING - OCTOBER 09
There are shades of Highsmith here, and Wilde's Dorian Gray. This novel is marvellous and unmissable. - THE TIMES - 29.08.09 - KATE SAUNDERS
engrossing... The best thing about Martin's novel is its portrait of a live of an actor...a wonderful evocation...It is a testament to the author's skill that Edward's shortcomings only serve to make the book more enjoyable. - SUNDAY TIMES - 13.09.09 - STEPHEN AMIDON
a marvellous, sort-of-thriller - THE TIMES - 05.09.09 - O
Martin draws us skilfully and boldly into a world in which near drownings, lost loves, stalkers and the loaded gun which must finally go off, are not nearly as terrifying as the unknowability of the human psyche. - DAILY TELEGRAPH - 29.08.09
Actors will always be fascinating creatures to us mortals, but this hugely enjoyable novel repays that fascination with interest. - THE INDEPENDENT - 18.09.09
Valerie Martin never repeats herself. After a memorable novel about Victorian London (Mary Reilly) and the best book there is about slavery (Property), she has now recreated in stunning detail a recent decade that feels as glamorous and remote as the 1890s or the 1920s. - EDMUND WHITE
Valerie Martin is one of America's finest contemporary novelists, best known for her Orange Prize-winning Property and also the acclaimed Mary Reilly, which was filmed by Stephen Frears. Her most recent novel, her tenth, is The Ghost of the Mary Celeste.
She is the author of three collections of short stories and Salvation, a biography of St Francis.