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Demi-Gods
Cover of Demi-Gods
Demi-Gods
Borrow Borrow
'Disturbingly good ... Elena Ferrante-esque' Metro
'Comparable to The Secret History ... A new and important author' Financial Times
'Her skill as a writer is beyond question' Sunday Times
It is 1950, and Willa's mother has a new beau. The arrival of his blue-eyed, sun-kissed sons at Willa's summer home signals the end of her childhood. As her entrancing older sister Joan pairs off with Kenneth, nine-year-old Willa is drawn to his solitary younger brother, Patrick.

As they grow up Willa is swept up in Patrick's wicked games and their encounters become charged with sexuality and degradation. But when Willa finally tries to reassert her power, an act of desperation has devastating results.
'Disturbingly good ... Elena Ferrante-esque' Metro
'Comparable to The Secret History ... A new and important author' Financial Times
'Her skill as a writer is beyond question' Sunday Times
It is 1950, and Willa's mother has a new beau. The arrival of his blue-eyed, sun-kissed sons at Willa's summer home signals the end of her childhood. As her entrancing older sister Joan pairs off with Kenneth, nine-year-old Willa is drawn to his solitary younger brother, Patrick.

As they grow up Willa is swept up in Patrick's wicked games and their encounters become charged with sexuality and degradation. But when Willa finally tries to reassert her power, an act of desperation has devastating results.
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About the Author-
  • Eliza Robertson attended the University of Victoria and the University of East Anglia, where she received the 2011 Man Booker Scholarship. In 2013, she won the Commonwealth Short Story Prize and was a finalist for the CBC Short Story Prize and the Journey Prize. Her first story collection, Wallflowers, was shortlisted for the East Anglia Book Award and selected as a New York Times Editor's Choice. In 2015, she was named one of five emerging writers for the Writers' Trust Five x Five program. She lives in Montreal.

    elizarobertson.com
    @ElizaRoberts0n
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    August 28, 2017
    Robertson’s vivid but somewhat choppy debut novel (following her short story collection, Wallflowers) is set in the 1950s, and moves between a summer cabin on a British Columbia island and California. When nine-year old Willa’s mother’s new lover’s two sons come from California to visit Salt Spring Island, Willa and her sister Joan’s lives are transformed. Joan, 12, is immediately attracted to and later pairs off with the older brother, Kenneth, who is about 15 at the start of the novel, while 11-year old Patrick captivates and sometimes repels Willa. Willa’s attraction to Patrick leads him to wield a special and somewhat sinister power over her, and as they grow up, the sexual tension and silent power struggles engulf not just this pair but also the adults. One of the novel’s strengths is that it doesn’t see teenage sexuality as something to be feared; it beautifully captures the mixture of excitement, enjoyment, and alarm that accompanies discovery and sets it against a series of sunwashed, Instamatic-filtered summers. Robertson’s short fiction has won a Commonwealth Short Story Prize, and her strengths at that length appear here too: wonderful cinematic detail, precise character observation, and pithy insights into the strong relationship between the two sisters. But novels require something more, and this one falls short of feeling cohesive, with too many characters coming across as shadowy or sketchy. The various episodes, sometimes separated by years, are not convincing enough to work as fragments of a whole. Agent: Karolina Sutton, Curtis Brown.

  • Kirkus

    February 1, 2018
    A strange boy from San Diego enters the life of a Canadian girl in 1950 and leaves it in 1961, inspiring a lifelong fascination.Robertson's (Wallflowers, 2014) debut novel is narrated by Willa, who is 9 when her story begins on Salt Spring Island in British Columbia. This is when she meets Patrick, one of two brothers who arrive with their father from San Diego for a visit. The father is dating her mother, the older brother and Willa's sister are heading for romance, and she is drawn immediately into the weird, faintly perverted aura of the younger boy, Patrick, who gets her involved in humiliating, painful, and/or frightening episodes every time he appears, variously involving a stinging jellyfish, an eviscerated rabbit, and his genitals. Willa is a Didion-esque narrator, and the novel has a strong memoiristic feel: "Everything I knew of California I learned when I was twelve--the blue desert, Valencia oranges, the smell of hot tires, my sister in an Orlon sweater, the woman who stole a plastic flamingo from our hotel, the surf gods, egg rolls from Fat City, sand in my swim costume, all the convertibles on Ocean Beach that parked to watch the sun duck under." By 1957, at the wedding of their sister and brother, Willa and Patrick are locked into their dark dynamic. She watches him with another girl in a car, pushing "his finger inside her underwear," looking "like a dentist probing for a cavity." Then he dances with Willa, tracing her upper lip with his fragrant finger. The climactic encounter occurs in '61, on a sailing trip with their married siblings down the coast of Baja California. Willa is in her second year at the University of Victoria; Patrick has graduated from Cornell; bad things will happen. A final section set in 2001 reflects on the impact of these long-ago incidents on Willa's life.Elegant sentences in search of a plot wander through a series of dramatic incidents and reflections on the power of the male gaze.

    COPYRIGHT(2018) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    April 1, 2018

    It's easy to understand why Willa's coming of age is troubled: her parents are separated, her mother's new beau Eugene is controlling and intense, and her mother is unhappy, self-destructive, and alcoholic. When Eugene's sons, lean and tanned, come to stay at Willa's family's summer home on Salt Spring Island, BC, nine-year-old Willa is intrigued. But something is off with Patrick: he burns moths with a magnifying glass and manipulates Willa into repeated acts of degradation. Willa is both repulsed and fascinated by him, and the novel chronicles their increasingly twisted relationship. Set in the 1950s, the narrative includes compelling period details and commentary about societal gender expectations. Unfortunately, while the author may have been shooting for something daring, sexy, and literary, she isn't successful. Her characters are universally unlikable; the timeframe jumps illogically; horrific events become gratuitous. VERDICT This first novel by an award-winning short story writer (Wallflowers) is a big ball of yuck trying too hard to be artful and provocative, piling one disturbing scene on top of another. Some readers may find it titillating, but others will say "enough."--Christine Perkins, Whatcom Cty. Lib. Syst., Bellingham, WA

    Copyright 2018 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Booklist

    March 15, 2018
    Robertson's first novel opens in 1950, when nine-year-old narrator Willa is fascinated by the sons of her depressive alcoholic mother's new boyfriend, a not-very-likable man she calls Uncle Eugene. While golden-boy Kenneth has already glommed on to Willa's beautiful older sister, as most boys do, the intriguingly dark Patrick seems all for Willa. In episodic snippets over several years, Robertson, who received accolades for her short story collection, Wallflowers (2014), follows Willa's coming-of-age in various spots along the West Coast, leading up to an explosive moment shared by the two brothers and two sisters. With immediacy that's at the same time veiled in the haze of memory, Willa projects a sort of film of the most vivid, often also the most disturbing, moments of her past. Her narration is heavy with metaphors, realistically vague, and rife with sexual imagery and first experiences. There's only a loose sense of plot, and by the book's end, in the present day, readers won't be sure they even know Willa yet, making language, mood, and setting the primary draws here.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2018, American Library Association.)

  • Daily Express Gripping, original and richly descriptive ... A daring page-turner to devour in one sitting
  • Financial Times Comparable to The Secret History ... A new and important author
  • D. W. Wilson Poetic, observant, tragic, gut-churning ... There is something inescapable about Demi-Gods, so that by the end you feel as though you've been inches underwater, unable to surface, but desperate to
  • New York Times Sex is more a state of mind than an act in this lush, subtle novel ... The book is of a piece with André Aciman's 'Call Me by Your Name' and other soft-core explorations of how we mess one another up, and realize it only later ... Rarely have blurred lines, in weird sex or otherwise, been explored with such grace
  • Sunday Times Her skill as a writer is beyond question
  • Wall Street Journal Reminded me favourably of novels like Deborah Levy's Swimming Home and Emma Cline's The Girls
  • Rowan Hisayo Buchanan, author of Harmless Like You Demi-Gods traces the border between fear and attraction. The novel throbs with ominous details ... Yet, it is also a book riddled with beauty ... This novel will sneak under your skin
  • John Boyne, author of The Heart's Invisible Furies Unsettling and compulsive, Demi-Gods is a fearless novel and Eliza Robertson a daring new novelist
  • Alison MacLeod, author of All the Beloved Ghosts A feat of subtlety and daring ... Robertson portrays complex relationships with breathtaking precision and compassion, revealing the human bonds that protect, falter, survive and heal. I absolutely love this novel
  • Zsuzsi Gartner, author of Better Living Through Plastic Explosives Demi-Gods combines the unnerving, naked female candour of Elena Ferrante's My Brilliant Friend with a darkened menace worthy of German director Michael Haneke
  • New York Times PRAISE FOR WALLFLOWERS: 'Reading Wallflowers is like taking a solo swim across a chilly lake. You become mesmerized by details – the silken texture of the water, the cool air on your arms as they rise and fall, the rhythm of your breath, the dark scrub of trees on the distant shore – without ever forgetting the mysteries and potential dangers that lurk beneath ... Captivating
  • Independent A young writer who succeeds in imagining the world afresh
  • Independent on Sunday A significant new talent. The ordinary and everyday become imbued with a strange significance, albeit with a feather-light touch; Robertson's prose is never weighed down, even as it imparts a sense of uneasiness, anticipation. Robertson lets images vibrate with possibilities ... Every story, individually, is sharp, illuminating
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