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Absolution
Cover of Absolution
Absolution
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In this stunning literary debut, Patrick Flanery delivers a devastating and intimate portrait of post-apartheid South Africa, and the perils of taking sides when the sides are changing around you.

Told in shifting perspectives, Absolution is centred on the mysterious character of Clare Wald, a controversial writer of great fame, haunted by the memories of a sister she fears she betrayed to her death and a daughter she fears she abandoned. Clare comes to learn that in this conflict the dead do not stay buried, and the missing return in other forms—such as the small child present in her daughter's last days who has reappeared, posing as Clare's official biographer. Sam Leroux, a South African expatriate returning to Cape Town after many years in New York, gradually earns Clare's trust, his own ghosts emerging from the histories that he and Clare begin to unravel, leading them both along a path in search of reconciliation and forgiveness.
In this stunning literary debut, Patrick Flanery delivers a devastating and intimate portrait of post-apartheid South Africa, and the perils of taking sides when the sides are changing around you.

Told in shifting perspectives, Absolution is centred on the mysterious character of Clare Wald, a controversial writer of great fame, haunted by the memories of a sister she fears she betrayed to her death and a daughter she fears she abandoned. Clare comes to learn that in this conflict the dead do not stay buried, and the missing return in other forms—such as the small child present in her daughter's last days who has reappeared, posing as Clare's official biographer. Sam Leroux, a South African expatriate returning to Cape Town after many years in New York, gradually earns Clare's trust, his own ghosts emerging from the histories that he and Clare begin to unravel, leading them both along a path in search of reconciliation and forgiveness.
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About the Author-
  • PATRICK FLANERY was born and raised in the USA. After earning a BFA in film from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts he worked for 3 years in the film industry before moving to the UK, where he completed a doctorate in 20th-century English literature at the University of Oxford. He wrote his doctoral thesis on the publishing and adaptation history of Evelyn Waugh's novels. He has written for Slightly Foxed: The Real Reader's Quarterly and the Times Literary Supplement, as well as publishing scholarly articles on British and South African literature and film in academic journals.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    January 16, 2012
    Flanery’s intricate debut, full of shifting perspectives and temporal leaps, calls for disciplined sleuthing to fully realize its merits. Set mostly in a richly described postapartheid South Africa, the interconnected plot lines follow aging, contentious writer Clare Wald as she attempts to assemble the sordid details of her revolutionary daughter Laura’s disappearance over two decades ago. She’s also dealing with her own remorseless complicity in the assassination years ago of her sister and her sister’s husband, a prominent figure in the National Party. Another plot finds Sam Leroux, a white South African whose parents died in a botched bombing and whose aunt was murdered in a robbery, returning to write Clare’s biography, an act that slowly reveals complicated bonds between them. Yet many questions remain: what became of Laura? Was she involved in the death of Sam’s parents? Who killed Sam’s aunt, and was the death connected to a break-in witnessed by Clare? Which version of the truth, if any, is “real”? Adeptly orchestrating multiple points of view, Flanery builds intrigue by allowing his characters’ unreliable interpretations of history, but with mixed results. Early understanding of the novel’s confusing form (chapters entitled “Absolution” are from Clare’s book, for one) would enable deeper, less frustrating reading. Still, this is a puzzle worth solving. Agent: George Lucas, Inkwell Management.

  • Chatelaine "A bold, even audacious examination of truth, memory and forgiveness."
  • The Times "Compelling.... At times Flanery's prose evokes Graham Greene.... A literary thriller whose writing is consistently first class."
  • The Observer "Sophisticated debut novel.... This remarkably assured, atmospheric novel perfectly reflects the tenuous trust being forged among South Africans as they look to the future.... Flanery...has already been called the next J.M. Coetzee."
  • Library Journal (starred review) "Patrick Flanery is an extraordinary new writer. Absolution is smart, moving, and provocative, a rare combination of page-turner and literary triumph. More than a book about South Africa, this is a book about the hunt for the truth, a hunt that is as universal as it is essential. Utterly captivating, this is without a doubt one of the best books I've read in a long while."
  • Steven Galloway, author of The Cellist of Sarajevo "One rarely encounters such a confident first novel as Absolution. Patrick Flanery arrives on the scene wholly formed: a writer of superb self-confidence, depth of insight, and resolute clarity. Clare Wald, who occupies the white-hot center of this story, will stay with me. Flanery has a great deal to say about the art of biography, about narrative and its discontents, about the ways a blighted history infiltrates, infects, and transmogrifies the present. As the title suggests, the search for absolution is a human project of vast dimensions, never quite finished. This is a beautifully written piece of fiction, a major accomplishment."
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    Knopf Canada
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