The Vexations: Book summary and reviews of The Vexations by Caitlin Horrocks

The Vexations

by Caitlin Horrocks

The Vexations by Caitlin Horrocks X
The Vexations by Caitlin Horrocks
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  • Published in USA  Jul 2019
    464 pages
    Genre: Historical Fiction

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Book Summary

A kaleidoscopic debut novel about love, family, genius, and the madness of art, circling the life of eccentric composer Erik Satie and La Belle Époque Paris, from a writer who is "wildly entertaining" (San Francisco Chronicle), "startlingly ingenious" (Boston Globe), and "impressively sharp" (New York Times Book Review).

Erik Satie begins life with every possible advantage. But after the dual blows of his mother's early death and his father's breakdown upend his childhood, Erik and his younger siblings -- Louise and Conrad -- are scattered. Later, as an ambitious young composer, Erik flings himself into the Parisian art scene, aiming for greatness but achieving only notoriety.

As the years, then decades, pass, he alienates those in his circle as often as he inspires them, lashing out at friends and lovers like Claude Debussy and Suzanne Valadon. Only Louise and Conrad are steadfast allies. Together they strive to maintain their faith in their brother's talent and hold fast the badly frayed threads of family. But in a journey that will take her from Normandy to Paris to Argentina, Louise is rocked by a severe loss that ultimately forces her into a reckoning with how Erik -- obsessed with his art and hungry for fame -- will never be the brother she's wished for.

With her buoyant, vivid reimagination of an iconic artist's eventful life, Caitlin Horrocks has written a captivating and ceaselessly entertaining novel about the tenacious bonds of family and the costs of greatness, both to ourselves and to those we love.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Horrocks shines while envisioning Erik scoring a silent film, debuting a masterpiece, or being released from jail (where he was held for defaming a reviewer)...[Her] description of Satie's music is also apt for her noteworthy novel: slow, spare, and at its best finely filigreed." - Publishers Weekly

"Horrocks paints an atmospheric portrait of bohemian Paris and a poignant one of Satie and his avant-garde circle...Finely written and deeply empathetic, a powerful portrait of artistic commitment and emotional frustration." - Kirkus Reviews

"A gorgeous, sensitive, deeply immersive novel...You'll never hear the music of Erik Satie again without diving back into the layers of genius, torment, eccentricity, abandonment, and profound sadness that Horrocks so masterfully evokes in this beautiful book." - Lauren Groff, author of Fates and Furies

"What a fabulous, original novel The Vexations is. Its unflinching honesty about an artistic world notable for both heart and heartlessness has given us a haunting, indelible story." - Joan Silber, author of Improvement

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Author Information

Caitlin Horrocks

Caitlin Horrocks is the author of the story collection This Is Not Your City and a recipient of the O. Henry Prize, the Pushcart Prize, and the Plimpton Prize. Her fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, the Paris Review, Tin House, One Story, and elsewhere and has been included in The Best American Short Stories. She lives with her family in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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