Elizabeth Knox’s Masterpiece Lands US Publisher
Following a glowing review on Washington Post-owned online magazine, Slate, Wellington author Elizabeth Knox, 60, closed a deal for American and Canadian publication with Viking Penguin for her novel, The Absolute Book.
“Every once in a while, as a reader, you run into one of those books that is just too big for your mind to entirely take in. It’s not that reading such a book is upsetting or frustrating, but that it is an experience of continuous awe,” Dan Kois writes for the magazine.
“The experience of reading Knox’s contemporary fantasy novel The Absolute Book reminded me of how I felt reading Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell or The Left Hand of Darkness or His Dark Materials or, to move out of genre, Life After Life or The Underground Railroad. I felt that my position in relation to the book’s capacious intellect and imagination and moral purpose was a vertiginous one. It was thrilling and frightening, reading this book.
“The Absolute Book is set in contemporary England, except for the parts of it that are set in a magical fairyland, except for the parts of it that are set in Purgatory, except for the parts of it that are set in Auckland. Its cast of characters includes a cop on a cold case, a bestselling author, a company of vanished soldiers from Verdun, a charismatic killer, two talking birds, Franz Schubert, Peter Jackson, some gross demons, and any number of sidhe – uncanny, powerful fairy folk based on Irish mythology.”
Kois calls the book a “masterpiece”, “important”, “beautiful” and “fun”.
According to Stuff, Victoria University Press publisher Fergus Barrowman, who is married to Knox, said the review generated so much attention the book was now out of stock in New Zealand, with third and fourth print runs ordered.
“We’d reprinted the book before Christmas, so it was already into the second print run, and we sold out within 24 hours or a little longer. It was very exciting,” Barrowman said.
“It had already been selling well and had fantastic reviews and word of mouth, but that [article] took it to a whole new international audience.”
Knox has published 13 novels, three novellas, and a collection of essays. Her 1998 novel, The Vintner’s Luck was published in 13 languages.
Original article by Dan Kois, Slate, January 29, 2020.
Photo by Ebony Lamb.