Katherine Carlyle

Publication Date: Oct 06, 2015

288 pp

Trade Paperback

List Price US $16.95
Trim Size (H x W): 5.5 x 8.25
ISBN: 9781590517383


List Price US $15.99
ISBN: 9781590517390

Katherine Carlyle is a masterpiece.”  —Philip Pullman, best-selling author of the His Dark Materials trilogy

“[T]his road trip through a snow dome of mesmeric hallucinations is Thomson at his best.” —Richard Flanagan, author of The Narrow Road to the Deep North, winner of the 2015 Man Booker Prize

Katherine Carlyle is Rupert Thomson’s breakthrough novel. Written in the beautifully spare, lucid, and cinematic prose Thomson is known for, and powered by his natural gift for storytelling, it uses the modern techniques of IVF to throw new light on the myth of origins. It is a profound and moving novel about identity, the search for personal meaning, and how we are loved.

Unmoored by her mother’s death and feeling her father to be an increasingly distant figure, Katherine Carlyle abandons the set course of her life and starts out on a mysterious journey to the ends of the world. Instead of going to college, she disappears, telling no one where she has gone. What begins as an attempt to punish her father for his absence gradually becomes a testing ground of his love for her, a coming-to-terms with the death of her mother, and finally the mise-en-scène for a courageous leap to true empowerment.

Excerpt from Katherine Carlyle

Two days later, on September 8, I flag down a taxi on Corso Vittorio Emanuele II. I have a suitcase with me, and my new umbrella. Draped over my right arm is the cashmere coat my father gave me when I turned eighteen. I’m carrying my passport, several credit cards, and a printout of my boarding pass. Round my neck is my most valuable possession—a small, silver heart-shaped locket containing two pieces of my mother’s hair, one blond and wavy, the other a glinting dark brown, almost metallic. The blond hair is what fell out when she first had chemotherapy. The brown is what grew back. I have closed my deposit account and withdrawn my savings. The money my mother left me. My inheritance. It’s enough to keep me going for a while.

A few hours earlier, at dawn, I walked to the Ponte Mazzini, my phone in my hand. The city sticky-eyed, hungover. Still half-asleep. I stopped next to a lamppost in the middle of the bridge. White mist drifting above the river, a blurred pink sun. Leaning on the parapet, I held my phone out over the water and then let go. I thought I heard it ringing as it fell. Who would be calling so early? Massimo? Dani? I would never know. […] Back in the apartment I downloaded Eraser and cleaned my hard drive, not just deleting my files but overwriting them so as to make retrieval more or less impossible. I left my laptop under the arch on Via Giulia with a note that said free computer. If I’m to pay proper attention, if this is to work, there’s no option but to disconnect, to simplify. From now on, life will register directly, like a tap on the shoulder or a kiss on the lips. It will be felt.

**Named a PUBLISHERS WEEKLY ‘Big Indie Book of Fall 2015’**
“Thomson is a hypnotic writer. His prose is precise and controlled, his images intriguingly dreamlike. Katherine Carlyle leaves a sharp, visceral afterimage in its wake; much of its staying power lies in Thomson’s ability to send the reader’s imagination beyond its final page.” —Elle
“In his long career, novelist Rupert Thomson has been compared to everyone from Franz Kafka to Oliver Sacks…But this one is different. The inspiration for “Katherine Carlyle” comes from a deeply personal place for Thomson: the conception of his daughter…Thomson brings Katherine authenticity and empathy on her wild journey north.” —Minnesota Public Radio’s “All Things Considered”

“[In Katherine Carlyle] Thomson’s delivery is swift on the page: fluid, visual, deft as a thriller writer’s. …The result is charismatic: you’re gripped exactly as you would be by a movie. You’re racing along on the shoulder of the motorcyclist, you’re listening to the music spill out of the club, you’re watching the cigarette butt arc down from the terrace to the cobbles in a shower of sparks. At the same time, something about the way Thomson paces the action, his phrasing and timing, his management of scale and grain – how close you are to events, how far away, how metaphorical they might be at one time, how literal at another – lets you know that in Katherine Carlyle you’re getting something more than a thriller…[It’s] shocking, emotionally draining and satisfying all at once.” —The Guardian 
“Rupert Thomson’s haunting family tale…[is] a contemporary masterpiece.” —Robert McCrum, The Guardian

“The only certainty about a new Rupert Thomson novel – besides the clear, elegant prose – is that it will defy the expectations of his readers…It is a bold choice for Thomson, a man who’s just turned 60, to write so intimately in the voice of a 19-year-old woman, but Katherine is a wholly compelling character, one who remains curiously elusive despite her apparent candour…Thomson has created a novel that resists easy categories, but remains with the reader long after the last page, asking profound questions about the way we choose to live and connect with others.” —The Observer 

“What links each of Thomson’s books are bouts of supreme strangeness and profound disquiet, and the author’s relentlessly cool, controlled, immaculate prose… Thomson charges [Katherine Carlyle] with such high-powered emotional intensity that it is impossible to put down… This is a stunning, thought-provoking novel; we should read it and then read everything else by this very fine writer.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune
“From Rome to Berlin to the frozen wastes of northern Russia, Katherine meets kind and cruel strangers, relies on her wits and overcomes considerable odds. This hauntingly beautiful and deeply immersive novel has the reader rooting for its main character every step of the way.” Minneapolis Star Tribune, **Holiday Books Guide Selection**
“Katherine Carlyle— spare, clean, almost sterile and yet still compulsively readable — is startling and refreshing in its originality, framing a young woman’s search for identity in the wake of tragedy in a compelling and unusual way…Still, after [Thomson] draws us skillfully into Katherine’s mysterious quest, he renders us unable to look away.” —Miami Herald

“In some ways a coming-of-age story, and in others an origin story (not just of Carlyle, but of all of us), this lovely, haunting novel left us thinking for a long time about where we came from, what it means, and how it made us who we are.” The L Magazine

“‘Katherine Carlyle’ is mesmerizing — in all senses of the word… Thomson’s prose is gracefully crafted; it’s a transfixing, intriguing adventure.” —New York Daily News

“In Thomson’s latest novel, a young woman conceived through IVF has an identity crisis, and her misguided fantasies take her on a mysterious journey to the end of the world. Jonathan Lethem calls Thomson “so undervalued, such a pure novelist.” —Publishers Weekly

“Ostensibly a journey in search of solitude, Kit’s increasingly reckless path lays bare the truth about her flight, that the act of running away may actually be a plea for being found. Thomson’s simply stated prose is made richer by the flaws of Kit’s character, resulting in an honest and worthy storyof self-discovery.” Booklist

“Katherine’s quest is an understandable reaction to a digital world that’s both intrusive and disconnected.” Kirkus Reviews
“This is a novel with panache.” Library Journal

“Rupert Thomson has over the past three decades produced a wildly heterogeneous troupe of narrators to inhabit the titillating, sometimes gothic dreamworlds of his fiction…  In Katherine Carlyle Thomson creates a remarkably true-feeling modern teenage girl, an accomplishment in itself, then goes one step further in having her strike an incongruously detached, mature tone … Thomson captures the magnetism between strangers, the erosion of mores and the amplification of chance that one finds when travelling alone – more so, presumably, when one is also a precocious, good-looking girl.” —Times Literary Supplement
“Katherine’s willingness to follow whatever leads her environment throws at her…has just such an air of surreal reverie, propelled forward by the spare, visual precision of the prose. Thomson’s willingness to pursue this kind of existential narrative…makes him feel a refreshingly unEnglish writer… [B]eneath the drifting surface of Katherine’s journey, through concrete Berlin underpasses and bleak northern hotel rooms, there emerges a tight and compelling narrative. It is a striking literary performance, memorably combining dream and thriller.” The Sunday Times
Katherine Carlyle is an IVF thriller about the relationships between parents and their children, set across Rome, Berlin and Russia. Pimps, prostitutes, discarded identities, late-night rendezvous — all of them feature in this book. It sounds like madness but in the hands of Rupert Thomson, it reads like a dream…Thomson has a knack of writing intriguing novels with strange dilemmas…[and] this novel should give him the recognition he much deserves.” The Times
“As moodily charged as an impending weather system, and suffused with the same indistinct sense of threat, this is a sometimes dark but ultimately redemptive tale, whose dreamlike motifs, coincidences and chance encounters are of a piece with the feeling of unreality besetting its damaged heroine…Unfolding in the acclaimed Thomson’s characteristically lucid and sensuous prose, this entirely unsentimental novel is as absorbing as it is affecting.” The Daily Mail
“Rupert Thomson’s gift for description is impressive, and this is an effective study of madness infused with travelogue.” —Mail on Sunday

“Katherine’s story, a profound, unnerving meditation on love and existence, is the canvas to which Thomson applies colour and beauty…[B]rilliant.” —The Independent
“Thomson is an original storyteller who with each new novel offers his readers something bracingly or daringly different…What binds them all – Katherine Carlyle included – is Thomson’s precise and deceptively simple prose, together with his ability to jolt, unsettle and move the reader with gothic drama, strange antics and moments of carefully calibrated tension…. [Katherine Carlyle] is a triumph…[and] has all the mystery and impetus of a good spy novel.” —The National
“Although the theme of personal discovery is a common one, never before has it been tackled from the unique perspective offered in Rupert Thomson’s beautifully written novel, Katherine Carlyle…Highly original, somber and breathtakingly cinematic…Thomson has truly outdone himself with this fascinating work.” —Bookreporter

“[A] sprawling, emotionally rich work.” —Vol. 1 Brooklyn

“A strange story –in a good way– with gorgeous writing and an intriguing story-line.” —Entertainment Realm

“[B]reathtaking and utterly original.” —Read It Forward

“[A] profound and moving novel.” —Booktrib
“Thomson’s novels tend to be dark and are often concerned with people trying to escape. This one is no exception…an interesting read.” The Modern Novel

“Rupert Thomson is so undervalued, such a pure novelist. He explores what interests him in the way that I most admire. He’s not trying to demonstrate its relevancy or extend his own argument. Instead, each novel is etched into reality by his curiosity.” —Jonathan Lethem, Hopes&Fears

Katherine Carlyle left me stunned and amazed. Thomson’s ability to create a world that feels entirely original and untouched by any other mind is at full strength in this strange and haunting book. The story proceeds with perfect logic from mystery to mystery, and takes the reader with it, unable to stop reading or guess where it will go next. The title character is utterly convincing, and her quest expresses with great clarity and power the strangeness of her origins. It’s a masterpiece.” —Philip Pullman, author of the best-selling His Dark Materials trilogy

“Written with the pace, verve, and detail of a spy novel, sleek and oddly honest, this is the fascinating story of Katherine Carlyle who mysteriously decides that instead of university and a privileged life she will erase her identity and much of her emotions and go untraceably to the most remote settlement of the Russian north. She is not seeking love. She is determined to have abandoned it.” —James Salter, author of All That Is

“Smart, stylish, inventive, and always entertaining, Rupert Thomson displays enormous range as a novelist. His prose is consistently sharp, his ideas consistently intriguing. I would read anything that Rupert Thomson wrote.” —Lionel Shriver, best-selling author of Big Brother and We Need to Talk About Kevin

“Rupert Thomson’s twilight worlds have long enchanted many readers, and this road trip through a snow dome of mesmeric hallucinations is Thomson at his best.” —Richard Flanagan, author of the Man Booker Prize–winning The Narrow Road to the Deep North

“If the mind best comprehends the heart through metaphor, what new ways of imagining ourselves and our loves are offered by technologies earlier undreamt of? This is the question Rupert Thomson seeks to answer in this stealthy, intelligent, surreptitiously affective novel. With a narrative that moves from the sophisticated milieux of Rome and Berlin to the startling lower reaches of the Arctic Circle, delivered in prose that is spare, cinematic and masterfully controlled, Katherine Carlyle is at once seductively contemporary and suggestively fable-like: Frozen for grown-ups.” —Rebecca Mead, author of My Life in Middlemarch

“This riveting and visionary story haunted me long after I finished the last page.Katherine Carlyle is an extraordinary novel.” —Deborah Moggach, best-selling author of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
“The language is beautiful… [I]t is difficult not to fall under the spell of Katherine Carlyle and the book that shares her name.” —Roughshots

  1. On page 64 Katherine muses, “My disappearance is like a crime without a motive.” Why do you think she goes on this journey? Does Katherine ever articulate why she leaves her life behind and heads north?
  1. Katherine remembers her mother reassuring her that her death isn’t her fault, then explains “That last exchange didn’t happen” (p 212). What is the space between memory and imagination in Katherine Carlyle, and what is Katherine’s relationship to each?
  1. Discuss Katherine’s views on and relationships with men. How does each of the men she encounters on her journey compare to her father—how she describes him, and her relationship with him?
  1. Katherine makes several references to Antonioni’s The Passenger (see pp 11, 248, 292). Do you think Katherine’s imagination and understanding of her world is shaped by film, and if so, how?
  1. What kind of a narrator is Katherine? What is the effect of having the story of her journey told in her voice and from her point of view?
  2. Do you think the relationship between Katherine and her mother is idealized?
  3. Katherine describes the painting in Klaus’s apartment as “Glossy, smooth, and two-dimensional, its subject is the surface — the power of the superficial — but at the same time it’s an exercise in concealment, inscrutability” (p 110). What is the significance of the painting?
  4. Throughout the novel Katherine displays an awareness of the power dynamics between her and the people she meets, asking “Is it any wonder I feel powerful?” (p 253). Do you think Katherine actually holds any power? Why does Katherine believe she is powerful, and how is that displayed in the story she tells? Are there moments in which Katherine is stripped of power? If so, what characterizes those moments?
  5. Katherine often imagines her father’s reaction to her disappearance (see “My father calls, and I don’t answer” p 36; “My father will contact my friends” p 100; “My father might fly to Russia” p 183; “My father has arrived by ship” p287). What do her envisioned scenarios reveal about her desires and fears?
  6. How does Katherine change over the course of the novel?
  7. What was your reaction to the ending, and did it make you recall anything that had previously happened?