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Cover of Landscapes


A darkly absorbing, prismatic debut novel from Christine Lai, set in a near future that is fraught with ecological collapse and geopolitical upheaval, Landscapes explores memory, empathy, and art as an instrument for recollection and renewal.

In a ruinous country house in the now barren English countryside--decimated by heat and drought--and in a dusty library damaged by earthquake and floods, Penelope archives what remains of the estate’s once notable, now diminished, art collection. As she delves into the objects and images, she also keeps a diary of her final months in the dilapidated estate that has been her home for two decades and a refuge for those who have been displaced by disasters. Out of necessity, Penelope and her partner, Aidan, have sold the house and with its scheduled demolition comes this pressing task of building the archive. But with it also comes the impending arrival of Aidan’s brother, Julian, who will return to have one final look at his childhood home. Penelope suffered at the hands of Julian twenty-two years ago during a brief but violent relationship, and as his visit looms large over her, she finds herself unable to tamp down the past in her efforts to build a possible, if uncertain, future.
In this elegiac and spellbinding blend of narrative, essay and diary, Penelope’s past, present and future collide as fear and loss close in around her, and she clings to art as a means of understanding, of survival, and of reckoning. Recalling the works of Rachel Cusk and Kazuo Ishiguro, Landscapes is an evocative reinvention of the pastoral and the country house novel for our age of catastrophe, and announces the arrival of an extraordinarily gifted new writer.