Ilium: A novel (Hardcover)

Ilium: A novel By Lea Carpenter Cover Image
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Set in the dark world of international espionage, from London to Mallorca, Croatia, Paris, and Cap Ferret: the gripping and suspenseful story of a young woman who unwittingly becomes a perfect asset in the long overdue finale of a covert special op

The young English narrator of Lea Carpenter’s dazzling new novel has grown up unhappily in London, dreaming of escape, pretending to be someone else and obsessed with a locked private garden. On the eve of her twenty-first birthday, at a party near that garden, she meets its charismatic and mysterious new owner, Marcus, thirty-three years older, who sweeps her off her feet. Before long they are married at his finca in Mallorca, and at last she has escaped into a new role – but at what price? On their honeymoon in Croatia, Marcus reveals there is something she can do for him—a plan is in place and she can help with “a favor.”

This turns out to be posing as an art advisor to a family on Cap Ferret, where Marcus asks her to simply “listen.” A helicopter deposits her at a remote, highly guarded and lavishly appointed compound on a spit of land in the Atlantic. It’s presided over by an enigmatic, charming patriarch Edouard, along with his wife Dasha, children Nikki and Felix, and populated by a revolving cast of other guests—some suspicious, some intriguing, perhaps none, like her, what they seem.

Brilliantly compelling, this is a spellbinding and unexpectedly poignant story of a long- planned, high-stakes CIA-Mossad operation that only needed the right asset to complete.

About the Author

LEA CARPENTER is the author of two novels, Eleven Days and Red, White, Blue. She is a Lecturer in Law at Columbia Law School and lives in New York.

Praise For…

A LitHub Most Anticipated Book of 2024

“Lea Carpenter clearly knows the world of espionage well . . . Carpenter knows how to dish out the dread that a spy story needs . . . Moral ambiguity . . . seems to fascinate Carpenter, the way living a double life and every day making your cover, that critical and deeply embedded lie, feel real to everyone around you. It’s also what makes Ilium such an unexpectedly moving novel.”
–Chris Bohjalian, The New York Times

“Reminiscent of the spare, strobe-lit storytelling of the late Joan Didion, Carpenter shows how wealth and sophistication paper over moral rot and how human attachment is a vulnerability when only posing and posturing keep you alive.”

“Exquisite... Ilium is like James Bond as told by the New Yorker.”
–Good Morning America

“The tension of espionage, grief and . . . longing . . . come together in [Ilium] . . . Brilliant. . . . A work of dazzling eloquence and sensitivity.”
Minneapolis Star Tribune

“A lonely young woman yearning for travel, risk and excitement is swept off her feet by an older man who lives the life of her dreams. . . . In this literary spy novel, Carpenter considers whether it is possible to be on different sides of a war yet still embrace a shared humanity.”
—The Washington Post
“A Trojan horse of a spy novel set in the dark world of international espionage . . . [and] a psychological study of a young British woman who finds herself, unwittingly, the perfect asset.”

"The writing is cool, perceptive, and smart, and Ilium reads like a spy thriller by Joan Didion. 

“Sharp and riveting, Ilium is a literary novel that reads like a psychological thriller. As a masterful and beguiling storyteller, Lea Carpenter is the perfect guide for this journey to a secret place of intrigue and betrayals.”
—Yiyun Li, author of The Book of Goose

“A spellbinding espionage novel. Carpenter’s nuanced understanding of character and identity raises profound questions about love, loss, and the reality of war. Ilium is both mesmerizing and sublime.”
—Clémence Michallon, author of The Quiet Tenant
Ilium goes well beyond offering an exciting take on espionage literature. Lea Carpenter has built an entirely new wing onto the genre. Intricate, propulsive, rendered with deft emotion, this female-centric spy story has a deeply human heart.”
—Christopher Bollen, author of The Lost Americans

“Spellbindingly-plotted and told in frank, elegant prose, Ilium is a beautiful book about love and war and innocence lost. Carpenter’s depiction of espionage is captivating, while the questions the novel surfaces about identity are perfectly devastating.”
—Lisa Taddeo, author of Animal

“Here is the beating heart of a great espionage novel: devious manipulations and moral ambiguity within intimate relationships, with life-or-death consequences. Ilium delivers it all, plus glamorous international settings, complex characters, and sparkling prose. A tremendously satisfying read.”
—Chris Pavone, author of Two Nights in Lisbon

“Refreshingly cerebral, literary, and cunningly cinematic . . . [Ilium is an] exploration of personal moral ambiguity playing out in the world of international intrigue.”
Booklist, starred review

“With its dreamily detached narration and elliptical feel, Carpenter’s third novel . . . is less interested in spy vs. spy . . . than the lack of reliable truths in people’s lives and the ways they allow themselves to be formed by events beyond their control. . . . An edgy confessional novel with the trappings of spy fiction.”
Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“Ilium is a masterful literary novel posing as a spy novel, and succeeds brilliantly on both levels.”
BookPage, starred review

"Ilium is an espionage thriller in its richly wrought and detailed plot; but its spotlight falls centrally on the narrator herself, whose yearning for a role to play earns her a bigger one than she could have imagined. The dreamy tone of this sparkling, riveting story sets up a memorable counterpoint to its intrigue. . . . A mesmerizing, moving story about different kinds of seduction."
Shelf Awareness

Product Details
ISBN: 9780593536605
ISBN-10: 0593536606
Publisher: Knopf
Publication Date: January 16th, 2024
Pages: 240
Language: English