The Ecliptic: Book summary and reviews of The Ecliptic by Benjamin Wood

The Ecliptic

by Benjamin Wood

The Ecliptic by Benjamin Wood X
The Ecliptic by Benjamin Wood
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  • Published in USA  May 2016
    480 pages
    Genre: Historical Fiction

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Book Summary

From the award-winning author of The Bellwether Revivals comes a "gorgeous and harrowing work" (Emily St. John Mandel) set on a mysterious island, where artists strive to recover their lost gifts - and where nothing is quite as it seems.

Situated on a Turkish island, Portmantle might be the strangest, most exclusive artists' colony around. Its brilliant residents linger for years, all expenses paid and living under assumed names. Relieved of the burdens of time and ego, they are free to create their next masterpieces.

Elspeth Conroy (aka "Knell") is a Scottish painter who has been at Portmantle for a decade, a refugee from the hectic London art scene. Her fellow longtimers include Quickman, whose sole book became a classic and paralyzed his muse; MacKinney, a playwright who left behind her family; and Pettifer, an architect obsessing over an unfinished cathedral. In his astonishing second novel, Benjamin Wood gives us "an intensely intimate portrait of an artist as a young woman, with truths on every page" (Independent).

The hermetic world at Portmantle shatters when the 17-year-old Fullerton arrives at the gates, his provenance and talents unknown. As Knell searches for answers, she reveals the path that led her to this place: Her intimate bond with her gruff drunk of a mentor; her early successes and crushing failures; a journey across the Atlantic and into the psychiatrist's office; and a grand commission of astronomical significance.

What is "The Ecliptic," and how does it relate to the life Elspeth left behind? This gorgeous puzzle of a novel touches the head and the heart, and the effect is nothing short of electrifying.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. In incisive prose, Wood explores how the human mind deals with the arduous work of creating art. A stunning novel, likely to linger long in the reader's memory." - Booklist

"With its architectural structure, dramatic pacing, enthralling plot, and lush landscapes, Wood's novel features beautifully written, meticulously perceived observations about art and artists." - Publishers Weekly

"The British novelist makes his aesthetic interests more palatable for a general reader with some intrigue and structural tricks and a kick-in-the-head kicker that would galvanize book clubs." - Kirkus

"A resounding achievement... Wood is the real deal." - The Guardian (UK)

"Exceptionally well done, a concentrated portrait of a lost time and place...Wood's novel stands comparison with the work of John Fowles...Fascinating." - The Spectator (UK)

"A beautiful book about the two most unwieldy kinds of alchemy, art and love. The bold intelligence of the voice would have been enough to sustain the book, but it also provides all the pleasures of obsessions, rich detailing of the Sixties world and plot-twists." - The Daily Telegraph (UK), Best Books for Summer

"An intelligent examination of creativity, psychology, and a riveting mystery...This ambitious novel will haunt the imagination long after the final page." - The Independent (UK)

"Both profoundly moving and as gripping and unputdownable as a thriller. Outstanding." -S. J. Watson, author of Before I Go to Sleep

"A flawless meditation on creativity and the psychic toll it takes. Not only is it beautifully written, but there's a bloody good twister of a plot that rewards you well beyond the final page." -Jessie Burton, author of The Miniaturist

"The Ecliptic traces a compelling dual arc through the 1960s art world and the psyche of a talented but traumatized artist. Mysterious and filled with beautiful imagery, the novel transports us to a secret, slightly surreal, and increasingly strange artist colony, before finally revealing - in its breakneck final pages - the full extent to which life takes a toll on art, and art takes a toll on life." - Amanda Filipacchi, author of The Unfortunate Importance of Beauty

"Here is such an intense evocation of the hell of creativity that one might begin to wonder whether art is even worth it. Well, yes, it is, case in point being the novel itself: whatever debilitating mental toll it must have taken on Benjamin Wood to sustain such vividness and intelligence for its entire length, we can all be grateful for the result. Terrific." - Ned Beauman, author of The Teleportation Accident and Glow

"Redolent of the best of Donna Tartt, The Ecliptic is a profoundly moving and gripping tale about the power - and cost - of great art." - Alex Preston, bestselling author of This Bleeding City

"A thrilling novel that combines fine writing with a propulsive plot, The Ecliptic will rightly appeal to fans of Patricia Highsmith and Donna Tartt. It confirms Benjamin Wood's place as one of Britain's best young writers." - Jonathan Lee, author of High Dive

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Author Information

Benjamin Wood

Benjamin Wood was born in 1981 and grew up in northwest England. A former Commonwealth Scholar (receiving his MFA from the University of British Columbia), he is now a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at Birkbeck, University of London. His debut novel, The Bellwether Revivals, was shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award 2012 and the Commonwealth Book Prize 2013, and won one of France's foremost literary awards, Le Prix du Roman Fnac, in 2014. He lives with his wife in London.

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