Published: August 6th, 2020
Publisher: Pushkin Press
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Psychological Thriller, Suspense, Domestic Fiction
Trigger Warning: Mental Health Problems
Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this exquisite debut. Thank you to Poppy at Pushkin Press for the invitation to take part and the gifted copy of the book.
Gwendolyn and Estella are as close as sisters can be. But now Gwendolyn is lying in a coma, the sole survivor after Estella poisons their entire family.
As Gwendolyn struggles to regain consciousness, she desperately retraces her memories, trying to uncover the moment that led to this brutal act.
Journeying from the luxurious world of the rich and powerful in Indonesia to the spectacular shows of Paris Fashion Week, from the sunny coasts of California to the melting pot of Melbourne’s university scene, The Majesties is a haunting and deeply suspenseful novel about the dark secrets that can build a family empire – and also bring it crashing down.
“When your sister murders three hundred people, you can’t help but wonder why – especially if you were one of the intended victims – though I do forgive her if you can believe it.”
I have a penchant for anything with butterflies, so I was immediately drawn to the stunning cover of this book. When I read the synopsis it became a book I had to read and I was thrilled to receive an early copy from the publisher. Then, in May I read the first line above to share for #firstlinefriday and I was hooked. I knew I had to shelve my current reading plans and read this immediately.
“How ironic. We had embarked on this mission to save the family from darkness, only to discover that we ourselves were darkness through and through.”
The Majesties opens with Gwendolyn looking back on the day that her sister Estella murdered three hundred people and left her, the sole survivor, lying in a coma. It then follows as Gwendolyn looks back at their family’s history and events leading up to the murders, as she tries to figure out what drove her beloved sister to commit such a crime and how she missed the warning signs.
At its heart, this is a story about family. The murders happen at a family event, the novel is narrated by the sister or the killer, and their family dynamics are a big part of the storyline. The author examines the impact of the unspoken secrets and shame lying behind their respectable family’s polite facade. How it can trickle through the generations causing greater damage than anyone ever imagined. She also explores the topic of mental health: asking how we can miss the signs of someone close to us struggling or push our concerns aside while wrapped up in our own lives, and how those around us are affected by our mental health struggles.
“It was like watching someone drown without struggling, sinking serenely to the bottom of the deep blue sea.”
Tiffany Tsao is an exquisite writer. Her beautiful prose and vivid imagery brought the world she created to life and transported me to a place and culture I knew little about. The time and effort she has put in to get every line just right jumps from the page and I savoured every delicious word. I found the parts about the bagatelles – the Majesties – fascinating and once again her research and knowledge was evident. It is hard to believe this is a debut novel and I will definitely read what she writes next.
There is so much more to this layered and cleverly written novel than meets the eye. It addresses some deep, difficult and sinister topics and will surprise you just when you think you have it all figured out. I am still reeling from that ending!
The Majesties is a mesmerising debut from a wonderful new talent that you don’t want to miss.
MEET THE AUTHOR:
Tiffany Tsao is a writer and literary translator. She is the author of the novel The Majesties (originally published in Australia as Under Your Wings) and the Oddfits fantasy series.
Her translations from Indonesian to English include Norman Erikson Pasaribu’s poetry collection Sergius Seeks Bacchus, Dee Lestari’s novel Paper Boats, and Laksmi Pamuntjak’s The Birdwoman’s Palate. Her translations of Norman’s poetry have won the English PEN Presents and English PEN Translates awards.
Born in the United States and of Chinese-Indonesian descent, her family returned to Southeast Asia when she was 3 years old. She spent her formative years in Singapore (8 years) and Indonesia (6 years) before moving to the US for university. She has a B.A. in English literature from Wellesley College and a Ph.D. in English literature from UC-Berkeley. She now lives in Sydney, Australia with her spouse and two children.
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