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The suspicion cast upon Murray is fueled by the accusations of Adriana’s mentor, an English historian named Francis Cape, and in the months that follow, the growing scandal upends the island and the Murdochs. Claire Murdoch, weary of her husband’s reckless antics, retreats from the world. Oliver Murdoch and his three brothers, left to govern themselves, wander hills and cliffs, creating a fantastical world with dangers as real as those that threaten their parents. What was meant to be a new start becomes yet another self-orchestrated disaster, and Elba becomes for Murray what it was for Napoleon before him—a place of exile.
Almost half a century later, Oliver returns to the lush landscape that inspired the magical daydreams of his childhood and sets out to reconstruct the events that nearly ruined his father.
The Manikin is not a mannequin, but the curious estate of Henry Craxton, Sr. in a rural western New York State. Dubbed the “Henry Ford of Natural History,” by 1917 Craxton has become America’s preeminent taxidermist. Into this magic box of a world—filled with eerily inanimate gibbons and bats, owls and peacocks, quetzals and crocodiles—wanders young Peg Griswood, daughter of Craxton’s newest housekeeper. Part coming-of-age story, part gothic mystery, and part exploration of the intimate embrace between art and life, The Manikin is compulsively readable and beautifully written.
In her first collection of short stories, Various Antidotes, Scott culls from the annals of science and medicine real and imaginary figures whose peculiar obsessions she transmutes with effortless alchemy into the stuff of art. In one story she writes of van Leeuwenhoek, the mad lens-grinder of Delft, whose early microscope designs allowed him to see life in a drop of water and for whom “there was hardly a difference between discovering life and creating it.” In another she offers an account of the origin of the verb burke, after William Burke, who was hanged in Edinburgh in 1829 for murdering victims by suffocation and selling them as cadavers to a professor of anatomy. She reacquaints us with Dorothea Dix, samaritan of the criminally insane, and introduces us to, among others, Charlotte Corday, who mortally stabbed French physician and revolutionary Jean-Paul Marat while he was taking his bath.
Each story is a perfectly wrought gem, and each offers ample evidence that Scott, like Hawthorne’s Owen Warland, is truly an “artist of the beautiful.”
In Joanna Scott’s breakthrough novel the Austrian artist Egon Schiele comes to prismatic life in a narrative that defies convention, history, and identity. A self-professed genius and student of August Klimt, Scott’s Schiele repeatedly challenges the boundaries of early twentieth-century Europe. Thrown in jail on charges of immorality, Schiele’s Mephistophelean reputation only grows in stature until at the age of twenty-eight, the artist dies in the Great Flu Pandemic. Told from a crosscurrent of voices, viewpoints and times, this stunning novel won Scott a nomination for the 1991 PEN/Faulkner Award.