Held: A novel (Hardcover)
A breathtaking and ineffable new novel from the author of the international best sellers Fugitive Pieces and The Winter Vault—a novel of love and loyalty across generations, at once sweeping and intimate
1917. On a battlefield near the River Escaut, John lies in the aftermath of a blast, unable to move or feel his legs. Struggling to focus his thoughts, he is lost to memory as the snow falls—a chance encounter in a pub by a railway, a hot bath with his lover on a winter night.
1920. John has returned from war to North Yorkshire, near a different river. He is alive but still not whole. Reunited with Helena, an artist, he reopens his photography business and tries to keep on living. But the past erupts insistently into the present, as ghosts begin to surface in his pictures: ghosts with messages he cannot understand.
So begins a narrative that spans four generations of connections and consequences that ignite and reignite as the century unfolds. In radiant moments of desire, comprehension, longing, and transcendence, the sparks fly upward, working their transformations decades later.
Held is affecting and intensely beautiful, full of mystery, wisdom, and compassion, a novel by a writer at the height of her powers.
About the Author
ANNE MICHAELS’s books have been translated into more than forty-five languages and have won dozens of international awards, including the Orange Prize for Fiction, the Guardian Fiction Prize, and the Lannan Literary Award for Fiction. She has been short-listed for the Governor General’s Literary Award, the Griffin Poetry Prize, twice short-listed for the Giller Prize, and twice long-listed for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. Her novel Fugitive Pieces was adapted into a feature film. From 2015 to 2019, she was Toronto’s poet laureate. She lives in Canada.
“Held may be one of the most romantic books I’ve ever read . . . Gorgeous . . . Surprisingly expansive . . . Hauntingly beautiful . . . The whole novel is spiked with little detonations of awe . . . Michaels publishes novels so deliberately that each one entrances readers of a new decade.”
—Ron Charles, Washington Post
“Dazzling . . . Held breaks new ground . . . It’s clear that Michaels’s writing continues to stand head and shoulders above most other fiction.”
“Michaels offers a profound literary experience that is executed with subtlety, grace, and an exquisite intuition for the secret burning pulses of humanity that thrum beyond time . . . There is an intense, mysterious beauty that infuses Michaels’s precise prose with a compelling power that is exquisite . . . Michaels illuminates how the internal life of one person can transcend all external influence. How the interiority of an individual—their capacity for love, empathy, and desire for connection—can be an invisible force of agency that effects change in almost unfathomable ways . . . Michaels has continued to spellbind readers across the globe.”
“Michaels is a writer who moves gracefully between award-winning poetry and captivating fiction—and there is a lyrical beauty to the novel . . . Her descriptions are full of clarity and unsettling insight . . . The gorgeous Held confirms why she believes that ‘hope is never a luxury. It is a necessity, and it is powerful.’ With Anne Michaels, you know you are in the presence of a real and rich sensibility.”
—Independent, Best Books of 2023
“Few authors balance the atrocities of history with the consolations of human relationships quite so effectively as Anne Michaels. She has an uncanny talent . . . Her alchemical abilities are undimmed . . . There is a truth to the humanity she depicts.”
“A cleverly fragmented tale of love, memory, and time shuffles the hopes and dreams of four generations . . . She demonstrates that fugitive pieces can make up a structure as strong and as meaningful as a finished monument.”
“Beautifully and sensitively accomplished . . . Readers should feel lucky . . . I found myself reading back over whole paragraphs just for the pleasure of it.”
—The Arts Desk
“Michaels’s grave, graceful third novel is a timely, resonant reminder of the trauma of war and the wreckage that it inflicts . . . Michaels has such a delicate touch as she deals with these weighty matters.”
“Held is a powerful, prophetic, and poetic work . . . Readers [should] hold tight to Held, a novel for our times—one that starts with war, then moves forward and backwards and forward again with love and with hope.”
—Winnipeg Free Press
“‘Gorgeous,’ ‘sublime,’ ‘intensely beautiful’—this novel lives up to every word of praise contained in its glowing reviews . . . A pleasure to read, each elegant chapter is set in a distinct place and moment in time, connecting multiple generations of characters and the ghosts that walk beside them.”
“Exquisite . . . There is a profound richness to this novel . . . The narrative momentum never falters. Just as the characters are held by their love for others, readers are safely held in the utterly tactile and emotional embrace of this incredible novel.”
—Candace Fertile, Quill & Quire (starred review)
“A gorgeous meditation on whether the ghost in the machine is actually in our hearts . . . Michaels artfully extracts, and reweaves, the often-invisible threads connecting the lives of her characters . . . A multi-faceted and subtle discussion of what keeps animating the web of existence.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Sublime . . . The joys and sorrows of passionate love and grief and the physics of memory are conveyed through the characters’ profound and lyrical musings . . . Michaels brings her poet’s finesse and soulfulness to this exquisite, deeply moving paean to love and life’s insistence and beauty.” —Donna Seaman, Booklist (starred review)
“I was blown away by the scale, beauty, weave and thinking of this book . . . It dances with words, time and ideas in a way that seems to reinvent everything I know about the novel . . . and it’s such a transporting read too. It’s exquisite—I am in awe.” —Rachel Joyce, author of Miss Benson’s Beetle
“Luminescent . . . Her stunning prose sustains the book’s enchanted mood from start to finish. Each page of this masterpiece has a line worth savoring.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Anne Michaels’s compelling novel, Held, couldn’t be more timely: war and its damages, passed through generations over a century. Through luminous moments of chance, change, and even grace, Michaels shows us our humanity—its depths and shadows.” —Margaret Atwood, via Twitter