The Life-Writer

By David Constantine

The Life-Writer
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A New York Times Notable Book 2016

An October Indie Next List “Great Reads” Pick

Following the final illness and death of her husband Eric, Katrin—a writer of brief lives of minor figures of European Romanticism—decides to fight against his absence by writing the story ... Read more


Overview

A New York Times Notable Book 2016

An October Indie Next List “Great Reads” Pick

Following the final illness and death of her husband Eric, Katrin—a writer of brief lives of minor figures of European Romanticism—decides to fight against his absence by writing the story of his life. Desperate to know Eric as he had been before she loved him, to fetch his early years into those that she must now face without him—Think of me then, Katrin, Eric told her on his deathbed, never forget me then, that lad gaily assuming the land and its roads and traffic would never be anything but kind—she begins, through letters and diaries and conversations with his childhood friends, to reconstruct a pivotal period of his life, uncovering an early affair Eric had with a Parisian artist. As the young couple's increasingly impossible love rushes toward its devastating conclusion, past and present intermesh in unexpected ways and Katrin begins to understand how that period of Eric's youth impacted Katrin's love for him and the marriage the two of them shared. Passionate, profoundly moving, and lyrically written, The Life-Writer offers up an unforgettably heartbreaking portrait of a brilliant woman who grieves for her beloved by writing what others wouldn't dare: the story of his first true love.

David Constantine

David Constantine is an award-winning short story writer, poet and translator. His collections of poetry include The Pelt of Wasps, Something for the Ghosts (shortlisted for the Whitbread Poetry Prize), Nine Fathom Deep, and Elder. He is the author of one novel, Davies, and has published four collections of short stories in the UK, including the winner of the 2013 Frank O?Connor Award, Tea at the Midland and Other Stories. He lives in Oxford, where until 2012 he edited Modern Poetry in Translation with his wife Helen.

Reviews

Praise For The Life-Writer

"Tender and powerful ... [T]he beauty of Constantine’s writing lies in his extraordinary patience and precision with every whorl of consciousness, his unabashed fascination with every leaf and branch of the inner life. His emotional intelligence is as abundant as his linguistic gifts, and as necessary to the story he’s telling, which, at heart, is that of a woman, newly widowed, reckoning with her own unexpected desire for a task she can’t complete, a task no one can complete ... The Life-Writer isn’t so much a love story, or even an unrequited love story, as it is the story of a late, beautiful and painful awakening."New York Times Book Review

"The Life-Writer evokes both the rapture and heartache of first love and the windswept loneliness of bereft old age."—Wall Street Journal

"British writer Constantine, long unfamiliar to North American readers, seems ready for discovery with this lyrical novel ... Haunting."Kirkus Reviews

"Constantine's analysis of character is breathtaking, and his prose is eloquent and moving. The novel is a truthful account of both the physical pain and the mental anguish of grief, and yet the journey remains a hopeful one."Publishers Weekly

"An intelligent, heartfelt novel about the subjectivity of memory and the inadvertent or purposeful distortion of reminiscence ... Gorgeously expressed."—Booklist (starred review)

"A quiet and contemplative portrait of grief and its aftermath. Warmly recommended."—Library Journal

"Constantine's beautifully meticulous, subtly rhythmic prose ... every perfectly placed word, every resonant image, marks him as a writer's writer, but also as one who has his reader's aesthetic and moral engagement fully in mind ... In the deceptive evenness of his tone, Constantine is reminiscent of Alice Munro, and he has the same tendency to surprise you with a stab to the heart, or to fill you with sudden quiet reverence for unexpected beauty."—Quarterly Conversation

"At heart ... The Life-Writer turns on the same ideas of love, loss and memory that animate 'In Another Country' and has about it much the same air of tempered suffering. It would, we might expect, be filmed in the same ... manner as 45 Years."Times Literary Supplement

"Constantine ... proves himself yet again one of the greatest analysts of feeling working in fiction today, and one of the most lyrical. The first chapter is so shockingly accomplished that I had to stop, go back and immediately reread it."—THE GUARDIAN

"Here, [Constantine] has a persistent interest in the discarded pieces of other people's lives that can reawaken one's own past, or open up the incommunicable in the present."—FINANCIAL TIMES

"Constantine's subject is, unlikely as it may sound, the whole of human experience, yet he writes with a focus and precision that opens the world instead of closing it. How he does it with so much warmth, and so much peace, is something it'll take me a lifetime to understand."—Ben Rybeck, Brazos Bookstore (Houston, TX)

"Within the compact dimensions of The Life Writer is housed a multi-dimensional narrative about how art, love and inspiration transcend time and space, unleashing elements that can both isolate and destroy even as they transform both the storyteller and the listener ... If you love the Romantic and the beauty of the irrational, as well as vivid, elemental prose, then you must read this book!"—Mary Harju, Joseph Fox Bookshop (Philadelphia, PA)

"Sometimes, we must write the stories we need to hear. Occasionally tragic and always tender, David Constantine's novel is a moving exploration of the ways in which we relate to the people we love ... A remarkable story of grief, rediscovery, and reconciliation."—Sam Kaas, Village Books (Bellingham, WA)

"Fans of Javier Marias's The Infatuations will recognize the gradual, internal novel in Constantine's latest ... In the best sense of the word, the reader suffers with Katrin as she reads and hears the words of her husband's former lover yet feels the need to celebrate what her husband once had. Through this, she may discover what it is she's supposed to be doing when she's ready to shed her suspended life."—Todd Wellman, Boswell Book Company (Milwaukee, WI)

"The Life Writer is a quietly beautifully written novel by David Constantine. It is an emotionally charged book that delves into the grief and loss of one so loved by another ... Through her tragedy and fixation Katrin becomes a woman of substance that you are glad that you traveled with to the end of this enchanting novel."—Lynn Riehl, Nicola's Books (Ann Arbor, MI)

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