The Life to Come

A Novel

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Book Description

Winner of the Miles Franklin Literary Award
Shortlisted for the Stella Prize
Longlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award

“For a novel concerned with dislocation, there’s a lot of grounding humor in The Life to Come. Most of it comes at the expense of Pippa and her ilk, but de Kretser’s observations are so spot on, you’ll forgive her even as you cringe.”—Amelia Lester, New York Times Book Review

Set in Australia, France, and Sri Lanka, The Life to Come is about the stories we tell and don’t tell ourselves as individuals, as societies, and as nations. Driven by a vivid cast of characters, it explores necessary emigration, the art of fiction, and ethnic and class conflict.

Pippa is a writer who longs for success and eventually comes to fear that she “missed everything important.” Celeste tries to convince herself that her feelings for her married lover are reciprocated. Ash makes strategic use of his childhood in Sri Lanka, but blots out the memory of a tragedy from that time. Sri Lankan Christabel endures her dull job and envisions a brighter future that “rose, glittered, and sank back,” while she neglects the love close at hand.

The stand–alone yet connected worlds of The Life to Come offer meditations on intimacy, loneliness, and our flawed perception of reality. Enormously moving, gorgeously observant of physical detail, and often very funny, this new novel by Michelle de Kretser reveals how the shadows cast by both the past and the future can transform and distort the present. It is teeming with life and earned wisdom—exhilaratingly contemporary, with the feel of a classic.

About the Author

Praise For This Book

Praise for The Life to Come

Winner of the Miles Franklin Literary Award
Winner of the 2019 Christina Stead Prize for Fiction
Shortlisted for the Stella Prize
Longlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award
Shortlisted for the Prime Minister's Literary Award for Fiction

“For a novel concerned with dislocation, there's a lot of grounding humor in The Life to Come. Most of it comes at the expense of Pippa and her ilk, but de Kretser's observations are so spot on, you'll forgive her even as you cringe.” —Amelia Lester, The New York Times Book Review

“Reflecting a pessimism that's almost refreshing in its candor, The Life to Come is mordantly skeptical about mankind's capacity for empathy. . . .The novel is filled with brilliant, quick–fire characterizations. . . . A scalpel–sharp work of Flaubertian social realism—but now the provincial setting whose customs it mercilessly dissects encompasses all Australia, if not all the world.” —Sam Sacks, Wall Street Journal

“De Kretser's writing captures, with unflagging wit, grace and subtlety, the spiritual as well as physical journeys of people on the move—between cultures, mindsets and stages of growth. . . . She writes about the aura and texture of places with breath–stopping virtuosity. . . . De Kretser excels at mordant takedowns—of right–on dinner parties, literary festivals where TV chefs hog the limelight, faddy diets—but she grants all her people the mystery of inwardness.” —Boyd Tonkin, The Financial Times

“The acclaimed Australian writer’s fifth novel spans continents—set in Australia, France and her native Sri Lanka—and weaves together disparate narratives that raise uncomfortable questions about Australian society, self–satisfied liberalism and modern life.”—Claire Fallon, Huffington Post

“The two best novels of the year are both Australian . . . Michelle de Kretser's surprising and profound The Life to Come has an unfashionable aspect: it is richly funny, and excoriating about current pieties. The lucidity and joy of de Kretser's prose, too, is a wonder to behold.” —Philip Hensher, The Spectator

“Flowing from poignancy to eloquence to delightfully wry satire, The Life to Come's richness of prose and character is meant to be savored and reflected upon.” —Meg Nola, Foreword Reviews

“A very stylized book—think Ali Smith or Virginia Woolf.” —Reading Women

“[The] characters give de Kretser, herself a native of Sri Lanka who lives in Sydney, a chance to explore the complexity of societies in the long throes of mistreatment of their ethnic minorities, whether those are Aboriginal people, Indians, Sri Lankans in Australia, or Algerians in Paris. . . . There is also much pleasure to be found in de Kretser's lovely prose, whose every sentence fiercely shines. A thought–provoking novel of both beauty and brains.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“[De Kretser] has again written a perceptive and articulate novel that blends acute observation and well–chosen details to create a sweeping story that is painfully close to home. With fascinating characters and beautifully nuanced writing, The Life to Come is a powerful exploration of the human condition and a compelling examination of how we look at each other and ourselves.” —Booklist (starred review)

“This marvelous stylistic work, dense with lush descriptions of scents, Asian food, Australian trees and flowers, weather, and Sydney neighborhoods, reflects on issues of race, immigration, and what it means to be an Australian: so different from America—or is it? Highly recommended.” —Library Journal (starred review)

“While each section can stand alone, together they create a joyful and mournful meditation on the endless small pleasures and complications of life: the difficulties of immigration, the logistics of infidelity, the creativity and insight born of jealousy and spite. In de Kretser’s sure–footed and often surprising prose, life is rendered as something that’s 'tedious yet require[s] concentration, like a standard–issue dream.'“ —Publishers Weekly

“It's a complex work; personally, as someone who grew up in the inner west of Sydney and who enrolled as a student in Paris, I found your descriptions of place beautiful and yet startling in their accuracy.” —The Garret

“The Life to Come is a rich, sensory evocation of the sights and smells of a city from which the real substance of sights and smells appears to have been eviscerated. Celeste asks her mother, 'Why do Australians go on so much about food?,' and receives the reply: 'Because they live in a country of no importance.'“ —Public Books

“Michelle de Kretser is a deliberately discomforting writer. She beguiles with beautiful descriptions, of sparkling Sydney (and Paris and Sri Lanka) and sharply drawn characters; then she sharpens her pencil on both characters and readers, with a decided poke at foibles and affectations, woolly politics and misguided ambition.” —ABC (Australia)

The Life to Come namechecks—with a characteristically ironic flourish—Patrick White and Christina Stead (‘safely great ... safely dead’), and includes a tribute to the ‘fearless’ Shirley Hazzard. De Kretser belongs in that estimable company. She is every bit their equal as a stylist, and in her willingness to apply the acid.”—James Ley, Sydney Review of Books

The Life to Come is a mesmerising novel about the stories we tell and don’t tell ourselves as individuals, as societies, and as nations.” —Better Reading

“Five days into 2018, is it possible we already have the year’s best novel? I’ll be amazed if anything surpasses this compulsive, exquisitely light–footed narrative composed of four loosely linked episodes seesawing between a sprawling cast spread over three continents. . . . One might puzzle over what it all adds up to, but complaining about the lack of an overarching plot feels churlish given the other riches on offer in this glorious novel.”—Anthony Cummins, The Daily Mail (UK)

The Life to Come . . . has five overlapping stories which, while being character–driven, reflect a particular concern with history and place. . . .Michelle de Kretser is a writer of unsentimental humanity.” —Donald McDonald,

“There is an enjoyably acute observation on almost every page of Michelle de Kretser's new novel. . . . As always, Michelle de Kretser offers a wide compassionate view to contain the cruel specific thoughts and accounts of past wrongs.”—Lindsay Duguid, The Times Literary Supplement (London)

“This spellbinding story follows a cast of characters as they chase their ideal version of life. Incredibly perceptive and uncannily contemporary, it is a satirical take on modern society.”—Rabeea Saleem, Book Riot UK

“Michelle de Kretser understands the power of detail, its ability to encapsulate and to express bigger matters. . . . The Life to Come is an astonishing book, fiercely intelligent, wise and subtle, unhurried and generous.” —Anna Rogers, New Zealand Listener

The Life to Come is a remarkable achievement . . . . It's a book of myriad miniature overlapping stories, shot through with subtle leitmotifs, which brilliantly captures the expectant thrum of a world where the future is always about to happen.”—The Saturday Paper (Australia)

“With wit and aplomb, Michelle de Kretser unpacks the eloquent silences that surround us to reveal the issues that we deny, suppress and ignore, exposing our flawed assumptions about other people. And she is wickedly funny.”—Lisa Hill, ANZ LitLovers LitBlog

“Superb, ambitious and deeply moving.”—Geordie Williamson, Weekend Australian

The Life to Come is an intense reading experience. . . . Michelle de Kretser has written a comic lament of disarming force.”—Michael McGirr, The Age

“De Kretser's great strength as a writer is her capacity to render the sensory and the sensual. . . . She is tactile and hyper–observant, as are her characters; the pleasure of this novel is in watching her watch them.”—Beejay Silcox, Australian Book Review

“Michelle de Kretser is a fiercely intelligent voice in contemporary fiction. Intimate and engaging, her work is always a pleasure to read . . . The Life to Come is a compelling exploration of race, class, migration and the art of writing itself.” —Writers & Company, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation

The Life to Come. . .has five overlapping stories which, while being character–driven, reflect a particular concern with history and place. . . .Michelle de Kretser is a writer of unsentimental humanity.”—The Spectator

“Although The Life to Come is not a political novel, it is a book that captures the political, social and economic zeitgeist. The beautifully drawn and complex characters are all creatures of the time.” —Brigid Delaney, Guardian Australia

“Exhilaratingly good writing. . . . Each page yields sparkling sentences and keen observations.”—Suzi Feay, Literary Review (UK)