Nominated by:

Bergen Offentlige Bibliotek, Norway

Publisher of nominated edition:

Atlantic Books, UK


Patrick Flanery      

2014 Shortlist

Judges’ Comments

Patrick Flanery’s Absolution is one of those rare books which manages both to be a thriller and a razor-sharp analysis of the complexities of morality and history, as articulated in a narrative that swings between eighties apartheid South Africa and South Africa today. The novel is structured around a series of encounters between a famous white South African novelist, Clare Wald, and her official biographer, Sam Leroux. Both have secrets that Flanery’s gifted, gripping prose will draw out. This is an important novel for South Africa, all the more remarkable for having been written by an American. It is, moreover, this writer’s debut novel.

About the Book

In her garden, ensconced in the lush vegetation of the Western Cape, Clare Wald, world-renowned author, mother, critic, takes up her pen and confronts her life. Sam Leroux has returned to South Africa to embark upon a project that will establish his reputation – he is to write Clare’s biography. But how honest is she prepared to be? Was she complicit in crimes lurking in South Africa’s past; is she an accomplice or a victim? Are her crimes against her family real or imagined? As Sam and Clare turn over the events of her life, she begins to seek reconciliation, absolution. But in the stories she weaves and the truth just below the surface of her shimmering prose, lie Sam’s own ghosts.

Shines light on contemporary South Africa and the long dark shadow of Apartheid, the elusive nature of truth and self-perception and the mysterious alchemy of the creative process. It is a debut of extraordinary strength and power.

(From Publisher)

About the Author

Patrick Flanery was born in California in 1975 and raised in Omaha, Nebraska. After earning a BFA in Film from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts he worked for three years in the film industry before moving to the UK, where he completed a doctorate in Twentieth-Century English Literature at the University of Oxford. As well as publishing scholarly articles on British and South African literature and film in a number of academic journals, he has written for Slightly Foxed and The Times Literary Supplement. He lives in London.

Librarian’s Comments

An eloquently written book, enriched by many points of view, from the apartheid era, and later South Africa. Raises many questions and has no solutions. Much to ponder in this rich book.

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