Mary Novik’s second novel Muse
was published by Doubleday
in Canada August 2013 and in Italy as L’amante del Papa
by Newton Compton Editori. The French translation, also titled Muse
, will be published by Éditions Hurtubise in February 2015 and distributed in France by librairieduquebec.fr Muse
is set in 14th-century Avignon during the Babylonian Captivity, so-called because the Pope set up his luxurious palace there, attracting cardinals, astrologers, jewelers, artists, master craftsmen, moneylenders, and spectacular courtesans. One of the Pope’s loudest critics was Francesco Petrarch, but he was hiding a few secrets himself. Although Petrarch wrote sublime poems about the married noblewoman Laura, he fathered two illegitimate children on an enigmatic scribe, who might have been the real inspiration for his poetry. Muse
is the story of this woman, Solange Le Blanc. With neither father nor husband to protect her, Solange is a femme sole, an “uncovered” woman who negotiates the narrow alleys and impasses of this city of men. Eventually Solange’s gift for languages and prophecy catches the ear of Pope Clement VI and she becomes his confidante, librarian, and companion–the hostess of the magnificent palais des papes, which still stands in the UNESCO World Heritage city of Avignon.
Mary’s first novel Conceit
is the story of Pegge, the daughter of the poet John Donne, a contemporary of Shakespeare. On his way up in Queen Elizabeth’s court, Donne elopes with a young woman from a good family, destroying his career. His lament is famous: “John Donne. Ann Donne. Undone.” Ann dies young, in her 12th childbirth, and Donne becomes the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral in London. Once famed for writing erotic poems to women, Donne begins to arrange safe marriages for his five daughters. When Pegge’s turn comes, she rebels, determined to taste passion for herself. In Mary’s Conceit
, we experience Pegge’s obsession about her father’s love-life and her determination to get the key to her own sexuality from beneath daddy’s pillow. Published by Doubleday
in 2007, Conceit
was called “a magnificent novel of 17th-century London” by The Globe and Mail
. Chosen as a Book of the Year by both Quill & Quire
and The Globe and Mail
, it was long-listed for the Giller Prize, won the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize, and was named one of Canada Reads’ Top 40 Essential Canadian Novels of the Decade.
For more information about Mary’s fiction, visit www.marynovik.com, which features a blog, biography, photos, YouTube videos, reviews and resources, book club guides, and lots of backstory for both novels. Mary is represented by Dean Cooke of The Cooke Agency and by Suzanne Brandreth and Ron Eckel of The Cooke Agency International.
Photo of Mary by Janet Baxter