Hot on the heels of TWO DARK TALES: JACK SQUAT AND THE NICHE, Aardvark Bureau – an imprint of Gallic Books - has acquired Charles Lambert’s spectacular novel, PRODIGAL. Founder and MD Jane Aitken bought UK and British Commonwealth rights, excluding Canada, from Isobel Dixon of Blake Friedmann.
Aardvark published Lambert’s chilling novel THE CHILDREN’S HOME in 2016, a title lauded by the likes of Owen King and New York Times. Demonstrating his striking versatility as a writer, Lambert’s latest offering takes a step away from the mysterious and macabre. Instead, he interrogates the nature of family, trust, death and what we do to one another in the name of love, all within the wider context of a beautiful, yet troubling, queer coming-of-age tale.
An innovative family drama told across three timelines, PRODIGAL plunges readers into the irregular life of the hapless Jeremy: a man in his late 50s trying to scrape together a living in Paris by writing ham-erotica under the lubricious guise of ‘Nathalie Cray’. When his all-but-estranged older sister, Rachel, calls to tell him that their father is on his deathbed, Jeremy reluctantly travels back to his family home in the depths of Whitstable. Confronted with a life that he was ever-eager to escape, his return marks the start of an emotionally-fraught journey into his – and Rachel’s – chequered past.
Marred by their mother’s death in a provincial Greek hospital some 20 years earlier, and, further back, by the moment at which their family fell apart, this reawakening of shared childhood and formative experience leads the siblings on a journey rife with misunderstanding and revelation, with secrets disclosed and not disclosed, with duplicity and confession, all culminating with something that may, or may not, be precarious reconciliation. PRODIGAL refuses to offer easy answers to the questions it poses: How does one live with what one has? How does one live with what one is? And, what does it mean to love and to be loved?
As ever, all the Lambert hallmarks are there: darkly polished prose, humane wit and acute psychological insights, shot throughout with threads of dark humour. The prodigal of the title – where love (and, by extension, life) is ‘a nice little tale where you have everything as you like it’ (from the DH Lawrence epigraph to the novel) – is undermined by a more complex, and ultimately more enriching, sense of humanity as something improvised, fragile and ultimately precious.
Aitken said: 'Charles Lambert’s writing just gets better and better. In tackling the complexities of familial love, he has written a novel reminiscent of St Aubyn or Hollinghurst, and the result is raw, provocative and deeply moving.’
This Thursday, Charles will attend Belgravia Books in London to celebrate the launch of the darkly intriguing TWO DARK TALES: JACK SQUAT AND THE NICHE. The novellas have already received a warm reception, with Charlotte Heathcote of S Magazine commending the stories as ‘intense and guaranteed to foster a sense of unease’. Houman Barekat of The Times Literary Supplement called JACK SQUAT ‘charming, elegantly written’ and THE NICHE ‘deeply poignant’.
You can also follow Charles on Twitter.
About Charles Lambert
Born in England, Charles lives in Fondi, near Rome, working as a university teacher and freelance editor. He is the author of several novels including LITTLE MONSTERS and ANY HUMAN FACE (Picador) and the short story collection THE SCENT OF CINNAMON (Salt). His work is included in THE BEST OF BRITISH SHORT STORIES 2013 (Salt) and he has won an O. Henry Award and other short story prizes.
Praise for Charles Lambert
‘Charles Lambert writes as if his life depends on it. He takes risks at every turn.’ –Hannah Tinti
‘Charles Lambert is a seriously good writer.' – Beryl Bainbridge
‘Compelling reading.’ – Patricia Duncker
‘Charles Lambert is a terrific, devious storyteller.’ – Owen King