book cover of The New Life
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The New Life

A novel by

2024 Authors' Club Best First Novel Award (nominee)
2024 Betty Trask Prize
2024 Nero Book Award for Debut Fiction (nominee)
2024 Walter Scott Prize for Best Historical Novel (nominee)
2023 HWA Debut Crown Award (longlist)
2023 Orwell Prize for Political Fiction
2023 Polari Prize for Best First Book (nominee)
2023 Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award

Winner of the Orwell Prize for Political Fiction, the Prix du Premier Roman Étranger, and the South Bank Sky Arts Award for Literature • Named a Best Book of the Year by TheNew Yorker, Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, and The Times (London) • The Sunday Times (London) Novel of the Year • Shortlisted for the 2023 Nero Book Award for Debut Fiction and the Polari Prize • Selected for Kirkus Review’s Best Fiction Books of the Year

A captivating and “remarkable” (The Boston Globe) debut that “brims with intelligence and insight” (The New York Times), about two marriages, two forbidden love affairs, and the passionate search for social and sexual freedom in late 19th-century London.

In the summer of 1894, John Addington and Henry Ellis begin writing a book arguing that homosexuality, which is a crime at the time, is a natural, harmless variation of human sexuality. Though they have never met, John and Henry both live in London with their wives, Catherine and Edith, and in each marriage, there is a third party: John has a lover, a working-class man named Frank, and Edith spends almost as much time with her friend Angelica as she does with Henry. John and Catherine have three grown daughters and a long, settled marriage, over the course of which Catherine has tried to accept her husband’s sexuality and her own role in life; Henry and Edith’s marriage is intended to be a revolution in itself, an intellectual partnership that dismantles the traditional understanding of what matrimony means.

Shortly before the book is to be published, Oscar Wilde is arrested. John and Henry must decide whether to go on, risking social ostracism and imprisonment, or to give up the project for their own safety and the safety of the people they love.

A richly detailed, powerful, and visceral novel about love, sex, and the struggle for a better world,
The New Life brilliantly asks: “What’s worth jeopardizing in the name or progress?” (The New York Times Book Review, Editors’ Choice).

Genre: Historical

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