Bold and provocative, Demi-Gods explores a girl's attempt to make a life of her own choosing in a world dominated by men, in this story of love, lust, and the spaces in between.
It is 1950, and Willa's mother has a new beau. The arrival of his blue-eyed, sun-kissed sons at Willa's summer home signals the end of her safe childhood. As her entrancing older sister Joan pairs off with Kenneth, nine-year-old Willa is drawn to his strange and solitary younger brother, Patrick.
Left to their own devices, Willa is swept up in Patrick's wicked games. As they grow up, their encounters become increasingly charged with sexuality and degradation. But when Willa finally tries to reverse the trajectory of their relationship, an act of desperation has devastating results.
Unfolding between the wild freedoms of British Columbia and the glittering beaches of California, Demi-Gods explores a girl's attempt to forge a path of her own choosing in a world where female independence is suspect. Sensitive, playful, and entirely original, Eliza Robertson is one of the most exciting new voices in contemporary literature.
ELIZA ROBERTSON attended the University of Victoria and the University of East Anglia, where she received the 2011 Man Booker Scholarship. In 2013, she won the Commonwealth Short Story Prize and was a finalist for the CBC Short Story Prize and Journey Prize. Her first story collection, Wallflowers, was shortlisted for the East Anglia Book Award and selected as a New York Times Editor's Choice. In 2015, she was named one of five emerging writers for the Writers' Trust Five x Five program. She lives in Montreal.
One of The Globe and Mail's 100 Best Books of 2017
ONE OF NOW MAGAZINE’S 10 BOOKS TO READ THIS SUMMER
“Unsettling and compulsive, Demi-Gods is a fearless novel and Eliza Robertson a daring new novelist.” --John Boyne, author of The Heart’s Invisible Furies
"The heat ripples into sentences dripping with delicious detail… Its nod to the classics makes Demi-Gods comparable to Donna Tartt’s The Secret History. As does the feeling of a new and important author arriving." - Financial Times
"In her poetic, essential debut novel, Eliza Robertson aims an unflinching gaze at the temptation and consequences of weaponized desire. Demi-Gods is a brutally beautiful coming-of-age story that sings with language as lovely, wild, and full of ominous longing as the young woman at its center." - Robin Wasserman, author of Girls on Fire
“A poetic debut novel . . . she juxtaposes grime and glory . . . to beautifully disturbing effect.” –The Globe and Mail
“Demi-Gods is a resolutely sure-footed piece of writing, moving with fleetness and agility over its chosen terrain. It’s the work of a writer who knows how to pace herself – when to sprint and when to hang back." --Quill & Quire
"Episodic and spare, it jangles with deceptive pace. . . . Demi-Gods is an uncomfortable, propulsive and deeply enjoyable read. It has an air of coastal gothic to it, a sense of chaos barely restrained amid all the calm." --National Post
"Demi-Gods is an entertaining read that leaves one feeling a tad sickly, yet completely satisfied." --Vancouver Sun
“A dark story of sexually charged friendship in the 1950s, it’s as daring as it is exciting.” –Fashion
“Demi-Gods traces the border between fear and attraction. The novel throbs with ominous details—a foot on the small of a back, a jellyfish’s tendrils, a broken doll house. As Willa’s relationship to Patrick develops so does our sense of dread. Yet, it is also a book riddled with beauty—the way sunlight can transform a body, the depth of a moth’s wings, the way a girl’s body can beat to the same rhythm as the sea. Willa’s beauty is described as sly. The novel too, is sly. It will sneak under your skin.” -Rowan Hisayo Buchanan, author of Harmless Like You
“Demi-Gods combines the unnerving, naked female candour of Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend with a darkened menace worthy of German director Michael Haneke. Eliza Robertson imbues each page with an almost perverse eroticism – all actions and even inanimate objects and innocent vegetation are charged with sexual tension. In the younger brother, Patrick, she has created one of the most convincing antagonists in recent memory – my gut churned each time he appeared on the scene.” -Zsuzsi Gartner, author of Better Living Through Plastic Explosives
"There are easy ways to describe Demi-Gods--poetic, observant, tragic, gut-churning--but above all else Robertson's debut novel demonstrates masterful restraint, a complete and uncompromising commitment to dramatic *pull*. Everything is just so potent, so charged: the sexuality, the emotions, the violence. And like the deviant relationship at the novel's centre, there is something inescapable about Demi-Gods, so that by the end you feel as though you've been inches underwater, unable to surface, but desperate to." – D.W. Wilson, author of Ballistics
“Demi-Gods is a resolutely sure-footed piece of writing, moving with fleetness and agility over its chosen terrain. It’s the work of a writer who knows how to pace herself – when to sprint and when to hang back. Robertson – whose 2014 story collection, Wallflowers, was extravagantly praised by critics – is a landscape artist with the signal ability to re-map spacious exteriors into teeming headspaces… Readers who allow themselves to get fully caught up in Robertson’s dense, disturbing prose may wonder how long it will take to free themselves from this novel’s own thrall.” - Quill & Quire (starred)
“An exquisite, unconventional story of obsession, barely repressed desires, brimming with erotic detail, chafing with innuendo, and filled with desperately complex characters--Eliza Robertson has written a stunner of a debut novel.” –Lee Henderson, author of The Road Narrows As You Go
"Demi-Gods is both languid and full of menace, a slow burn that compulsively gathers heat. Robertson explores one girl’s passivity and power, and one boy’s monstrous impulses, with shocking honesty and language that is as precise and sensuous as a poet’s. This story is frighteningly real and beautifully told." - Deborah Willis, author of The Dark and Other Love Stories
“Demi-Gods is a feat of subtlety and daring that opens with unease, builds into a dark drama, and culminates in an unforgettable scene of revenge. Robertson portrays complex relationships with breathtaking precision and compassion, revealing the human bonds that protect, falter, survive, and heal. I absolutely love this novel.” – Alison MacLeod, author of All the Beloved Ghosts
“A daring page-turner to devour in one sitting.” – Express by Elizabeth Archer
“Robertson writes with compelling precision and complexity about the charged ambivalences of sexual discovery. As an award-winning short-story writer, she has a gift for sharply compressed description and minute character observation.” – The Sydney Morning Herald
“Robertson's strength lies in her detailing of the characters, and in her sparse but powerful language.” – The Telegraph, December 1, 2017
Praise for Wallflowers:
“Reading Wallflowers, Eliza Robertson’s debut story collection, is like taking a solo swim across a chilly lake. You become mesmerized by details – the silken texture of the water, the cool air on your arms as they rise and fall, the rhythm of your breath, the dark scrub of trees on the distant shore – without ever forgetting the mysteries and potential dangers that lurk beneath. In this captivating book, people down in gray water, shacks burn on stony beaches, planes crash into rivers, hummingbirds are trapped and tethered to wrists, neighborhoods flood. Grief and loss cast long shadows over these stories, which sometimes bring us to the threshold of disaster and sometimes explore its aftermath.” —New York Times Book Review
"A little bit dark. A little bit weird. Eliza Robertson is Canada's next big lit star." -Flare
"An absolutely stunning collection. Without question it announces a major talent...There are doubtless many awards in her future." -Toronto Star
“Confirms her as a significant new talent. The ordinary and everyday become imbued with a strange significance, albeit with a feather-light touch; Robertson's prose is never weighed down, even as it imparts a sense of uneasiness, anticipation. Robertson lets images vibrate with possibilities. Almost every story, individually, is sharp, illuminating.” — Independent on Sunday
“Tremulous, tender, indeed, Munro-esque.” —Maclean's
“Robertson pays careful attention to the smallest detail, the one rich with opportunity and heartbreak.” – The Scotsman
“Robertson writes with a keen command, both of language and of form, pushing both beyond the realm of comfort.” –Vancouver Sun
“Robertson is poised to become a master.” –The Globe and Mail
“Robertson’s writing is ambitious, and her imagination fearless. Weird, disturbing and oddly bewitching . . . unlike anything I’ve read before.” –The Fountain