THE TYPEWRITER’S TALE by Michiel Heyns is published today in the USA by St. Martin’s Press. When the novel was first released in South Africa, it was shortlisted for both the Commonwealth Prize for African Writers, and the Herman Charles Bosman Prize, SA. It was also featured as a BBC Radio 4 Book at Bedtime in 2016.
The book has already been receiving pre-publication praise in the USA:
‘Literary history blends masterfully with a plot of intrigue in this slim and delightful novel' - Kirkus Reviews
‘An engaging whodunit atmosphere, in which faithfully re-created real-life individuals mix well with authentically drawn fictitious ones' Starred Booklist
THE TYPEWRITER’S TALE brings to life acclaimed writer Henry James, but the author is not the hero of the piece — the heroine is the wonderful fictional character of his typist, Frieda Wroth.
We discover society in the town of Rye around ‘the Master’, as seen through the cool gaze of his typist, Frieda — a woman stirred by the suffragette movement and her own fledgling passions and ambitions. Admiring of the great author, she nevertheless feels under-valued, as his mere ‘typewriter’. But when the dashing Morton Fullerton comes to visit, Frieda finds herself at the centre of an intrigue every bit as engrossing as the novels she types every day, bringing her into conflict with the flamboyant Edith Wharton, and compromising her loyalty to her employer.
Caught in a complex triangle with urbane, long-winded James, suave, witty Morton Fullerton and voracious, larger-than life Edith Wharton, Frieda tries to obey the Master’s dictum: ‘Live all you can; it’s a mistake not to.’ But living, she finds, exacts a price…
More praise for THE TYPEWRITER’S TALE:
‘THE TYPEWRITER’S TALE beams a brilliant light onto the world of Henry James, illuminating the language, manners and social mores of the early twentieth century. This exquisite account of the master and his amanuensis is a tour de force; her story, for all the confines of a typist's life in Rye, a triumph. Heyns is an important figure in South African letters; here, he is profound and humorous. THE TYPEWRITER’S TALE is a breathtaking work and, above all, a pleasure to read.’ – Zoe Wicomb
‘What a great idea! The master-observer is observed by his stenographer. A delicious treat for Henry James aficionados, and also for those who may never have read a word. Sly, sympathetic, high-minded, involving, moving, funny. I loved it, and was very sorry to reach the last page. But Frieda Wroth and Mr James and the other characters will live on in my mind.’ – Ronald Frame
‘THE TYPEWRITER’S TALE is admirable for its Jamesian inwardness and delicacy. It’s a brilliant idea to explore the typewriter’s view of the great writer she serves and to imagine so plausibly how she is drawn into his world.’ – Lyndall Gordon
‘A hugely refreshing South African novel … Heyns has a knack for building clear, expressive prose like a watchmaker fitting together the workings of a timepiece.’ – Gareth Pike, Sunday Times
Michiel Heyns is a Professor Emeritus of English Literature, prize-winning novelist, translator, and critic. All of his novels have been published in South Africa by Jonathan Ball, who publish I AM PANDARUS in 2017. Freight will publish LOST GROUND in the UK in 2018.