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A Theatre for Dreamers - Polly Samson

A Theatre for Dreamers

By: Polly Samson

Paperback | 15 April 2020

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An Observer Fiction Highlight 2020

1960. The world is dancing on the edge of revolution, and nowhere more so than on the Greek island of Hydra, where a circle of poets, painters and musicians live tangled lives, ruled by the writers Charmian Clift and George Johnston, troubled king and queen of bohemia. Forming within this circle is a triangle: its points the magnetic, destructive writer Axel Jensen, his dazzling wife Marianne Ihlen, and a young Canadian poet named Leonard Cohen.

Into their midst arrives teenage Erica, with little more than a bundle of blank notebooks and her grief for her mother. Settling on the periphery of this circle, she watches, entranced and disquieted, as a paradise unravels.

Burning with the heat and light of Greece, A Theatre for Dreamers is a spellbinding novel about utopian dreams and innocence lost – and the wars waged between men and women on the battlegrounds of genius.

About the Author

Polly Samson is the author of two short story collections and two previous novels. Her work has been shortlisted for numerous prizes, translated into several languages and has been dramatised on BBC Radio 4. Her novel The Kindness was named Book of the Year by The Times and Observer. She has written lyrics for four Number One albums, and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.
Industry Reviews
A surefire summer hit ... Feels at once like a gift and an escape route ... At once a blissful piece of escapism and a powerful meditation on art and sexuality - just the book to bring light into these dark days * Observer *
Beautifully crafted, this book evokes a lost douceur de vivre * Financial Times, Readers Picks *
Set on sun-drenched Hydra in the 1960s, this novel follows teenage Erica, who runs away from her strict father in London and joins the island's bickering bohemian community of writers and artists. It features a young poet called Leonard Cohen and a muse called Marianne * The Times, Summer Reading Picks *
Samson imagines it all with sultry precision in this utterly transporting, bittersweet portrait of youthful and sexual idealism * Daily Mail, Summer Reading Picks *
Samson is magnificently in control of her subject ... Clever and beguiling * Guardian *
I've been longing to go to Hydra... since it looks like I'm not going to get there any time soon, I'm lining up A Theatre for Dreamers ... the descriptions of languid days, long lunches and decadent behaviour will carry me there instead * Evening Standard, Summer Reading Picks *
Samson is an intensely sensual writer, conjuring up blue skies, the tang of wild herbs, the vivid splash of bougainvillea ... As good as a Greek holiday, and may be the closest we get this year * Financial Times *
Spellbinding ... An immersive read, steeped in nostalgia. Samson's poetic prose is so evocative that, by the end, you find yourself googling those entrancing images of Hydra, 1960, just to wallow further in the poignancy of it all * Vanity Fair *
Heady armchair escapism ... An impressionistic, intoxicating rush of sensory experience * Sunday Times *
Intoxicating ... Highly accomplished ... A testament to Samson's transportive prose * Spectator *
By the end the reader may be unable to decide whether Hydra enchanted or cursed those attracted by its primitive beauty, cheap rents and easy access to sex, drugs and performance poetry ... A novel about the treatment of women by artistic men * The Times *
Beautiful ... Perfect if you want to escape the drudgery of another lentil dinner and dream of 1960s Hydra with Leonard Cohen -- Dolly Alderton
Glorious ... Feels like the book the author was born to create * Irish Times *
It is a grand read and the prose falls translucently like the air ... Superb work and a delightful novel -- Thomas Keneally
Such a lyrical, elegant and beautifully told story -- Joanna Cannon
So vivid that you can see the sun-washed white houses and blue seas * Good Housekeeping, Book of the Month *
I cannot tell you how much I needed this beautiful book to transport me back to 1960s Greece! Lyrical, sexy, tender and sad in places. Highly recommended -- Erin Kelly
This radiant novel will transport you straight to Greece - a blessing at a time when most of us are stuck in our homes * Cosmopolitan *
Delicious -- Nigella Lawson
This well-crafted novel beautifully captures the texture of a halcyon age in which anything seems possible * Daily Mail *
A coming of age story set among a group of artists and poets, including Leonard Cohen, on the Greek island of Hydra in 1960. She is so good at mentally indelible imagery -- Jojo Moyes * Guardian *
Dreamily nostalgic * Observer, Fiction to look out for in 2020 *
About real people living in Hydra in 1960. Steeped in nostalgia that's both sad and beautiful. It's fascinating, immersive and so MOVING -- Marian Keyes
Hands down the best book I've read all year. Luminous, immersive, gorgeous, profound -- Joanne Harris
Her best work yet, so evocative and alive with the scents and colours of a Greek summer ... Among the best prose writers of her generation. The writing is just delicious -- Cressida Connolly
I was utterly entranced. It feels entirely true and effortless and compelling - in the way that all great novels do -- Justine Picardie
If summer was suddenly like a novel, it would be like this one. Immaculate -- Andrew O'Hagan
A seductive story, suffused with nostalgia * Sunday Mirror *
This is a sheer delight - I've never been to Hydra but this book transports you and miraculously, you are there in 1960 -- Jenny Eclair
A glorious novel -- Kate Mosse
A beautifully written, evocative, inspiring novel. I devoured it -- Kathy Lette
Polly Samson has created such a dazzling evocation of an era and its mindset. Here, the island of Hydra is a geographical place but a psychological one too, populated by beautiful and damaged characters who pull you down into its pages for another cafe gossip, another moonlit swim, another drink. This book is a bohemian idyll meticulously drawn, and unsparingly exposed. It is like going away to paradise, then coming back rather wiser. You don't read this book - you live it -- Marina Hyde
A luscious seduction of a book -- Sofka Zinovieff
Praise for The Kindness: 'An addictive, cleverly structured and intriguing relationship story of lies and flawed communication * SUNDAY TIMES Book of the Week *
Annoyingly close to perfection -- INDIA KNIGHT * SUNDAY TIMES *
A story that entices you to revel in its languid, beautifully written prose while demanding that you turn the page to discover the secrets it holds * OBSERVER Paperback of the week *
Beautifully written, with twists engineered like a thriller -- STEPHANIE MERRITT * OBSERVER Books of the Year *
A book to cherish, to recommend, to return to * FINANCIAL TIMES *
Brilliant, tender and beautiful -- ANDREW O'HAGAN
Beautifully written and plotted with serpentine cunning, Samson's novel is what might be called a love story for adults: unsentimental, at times harsh, but ultimately uplifting * MAIL ON SUNDAY *
Gorgeously chilling ... Samson seems to write in colours * INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY *
Shining, poetic and sumptuous ... Polly Samson is a writer of great insight and sensitivity -- JOANNE HARRIS
A richly sensory writer ... A sumptuous, serious story * DAILY MAIL *
Lush, lyrical prose ... The Kindness is to be read more than once, not merely to enjoy again the beauty of the writing and the considerable insights into human experience, but to test the earlier narrative with the knowledge of what is to come * INDEPENDENT *
Compelling ... Atmospheric and vividly told, the book is a poignant examination of love, guilt, betrayal and the deception that can lie at the heart of every relationship * TATLER *
Family proves far from idyllic in this poetic, sensual story of betrayal and lies. Writer and lyricist Samson's prose is dazzlingly evocative, as she explores how relationships are rarely what they seem * GLAMOUR *
Secrets and misunderstandings fuel Polly Samson's involving, melancholy and cleverly constructed second novel ... This is a mature and haunting novel about love and loss that asks if we all, in the end, see what we want to see * METRO *
This is elegant, witty writing, informed throughout by generosity and wise perceptiveness. Dealing with many kinds of love, and with misunderstanding, betrayal, grief and forgiveness, the novel dares to posit, ultimately, the possibility of redemption. It is a book to cherish, to recommend, to return to * FT WEEKEND *
Intensely evocative ... Samson treats this difficult subject with candour and compassion ... The novel's effortlessness, its readability, sweeps everything in its wake ... This is a book to relax into * DAILY TELEGRAPH *
Polly Samson's mastery of the English language is powerful and impressive * DAILY EXPRESS *
Fills the back of your eyes with light like an Aegean sky, and has that rare and lovely quality of making you nostalgic for something you never had ... It perfectly takes the reader into a different world. Which we could all do with -- Louisa Young

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