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At the International Conference Centre in Geneva, Hannah Rossier, formerly Annie Price, comes face to face with Neville Weir, someone from her childhood whom she never expected, or wanted, to meet again. As Neville’s reasons for attending the conference become clear, the dark waters of Hannah’s past start to rise. Hannah is a psychotherapist, with a specialist interest in memory and how connections are made between past and present. She has reinvented herself successfully, moving from a small northern town in England to Lucerne, Switzerland, with her husband, Thibaut.
Nobody, not even Hannah, knows the full truth about herself. Her ‘memories’ consist of glimpses of the place where she played in childhood, known simply as ‘The Wild’. Over the three days of the conference she has to decide whether she can avoid Neville, or whether she should submit to an encounter with him and with her past. And in her keynote lecture about the neuroscience of memory, how much to conceal or reveal. But can her specialism save her from drowning?
‘Confronting themes of memory, trauma, childhood violence, criminality and responsibility, Michael uses informal conversations, dinner-table discussion, open fora and glimpsed flashbacks to show how much more than rational analysis is needed to unearth the “darkness of prior causes” and to give voice to our hidden, “unspoken” pasts.
We follow the keynote speaker Hannah Rossier as she attempts to maintain the authority and dignity of her scholarly credentials while being overwhelmed by a past she thought she had left behind. In a very good novel that somehow manages to create tension, even dread, in the build-up to the delivery of a lecture, Michael shows us that the professional pursuit of truth in an academic setting can act as a perfect cover for the burying of a personal truth too difficult to face. In our worthy intellectual pursuits, we are reminded, we had best understand our motives, lest we forget that all academic discovery – however methodologically sound – has its origins in subjectivity. Fiction, that is, reveals the true context for scholarship: not the university campus, but the flawed human being.’ —Hal Jenson, TLS
‘Book of the Year Michael is rare in taking on the ethical gravity of evil, turning it over and over in her stony prose…What more can we ask for in our fiction writers than such honesty, such fierceness.’ —Natasha Walter, Independent
‘Livi Michael has her own unique vision: she can see in the darkness.’ —Literary Review
‘Livi Michael takes the shoddiness of the world and transmutes it into grace…I cried. The book is not even dismal. I laughed, too.’ —Fay Weldon
‘A remarkable novel … a gripping, heart-rending, very touching story.’ —Margaret Drabble
‘Inheritance is full of glittering revelation… giving ordinary things and ordinary life an unexpected lustre.’ —Literary Review
‘A carefully wrought meditation on transience and survival.’ —The Times Literary Supplement
‘Achieves the difficult feat of getting inside the heads of people so overlooked by society that their sense of their own identities is dwindling.’ —Times Literary Supplement
‘One of the few English novels to tackle issues such as money, class and power head-on.’ —DJ Taylor
‘Has the colour and power of the best chronicles she uses.’ —The Sunday Times
‘Michael paints the Middle Ages in spare and elegant prose.’ —New York Times
‘A deft fictional hand and a compelling compassion.’ —Irish Times
‘Undercut with a brooding sense of dread and hints of the paranormal.’ —Independent