For Alec, an independent businessman and classic car aficionado, life has been a series of lies that he has told himself and the people around him. Raised by a stay-at-home mother, and a father who worked on the line at an automotive factory in the Greater Toronto Area, Alec sets himself up as an interior designer. His success, he believes, is due as much to his talents as to the false impression he creates among his clients: he is a fashionable and trendy gay man, well-known in his world.
Sumintra, or 'Sue', as she calls herself, does not chafe at her parents' expectations for her, as she lives a separate and secret life. When she meets Alec at a classic car show, their private worlds connect and they fall in love. The trouble for them is that they have public lives that are contrary to their personal hopes and fears.
In a short novel that resembles Coetzee's Disgrace in both the elegance of its writing and its emotional impact, Neil Bissoondath has forged the finest novel of his career.
“Masterful … dazzling … unforgettable … plotted as deftly as any bestselling thriller. The Soul of All Great Designs breathes new life into an old genre, testifying to the novel’s lasting power.” - The Globe and Mail
“Bissoondath examines the nature of identity with a unique and stunning approach … one of the finest recent novels.” - Ottawa Citizen
“Despite some acclaim, Bissondath remains an underappreciated writer, whose relatively low profile gives little indication of his considerable skill.” - Winnipeg Free Press
“Bissoondath toys relentlessly with the emotions and expectations of readers, who … receive something much different, and much darker, than anticipated.” - Star Phoenix
“A quiet novel with many layers … a book about deceit and sacrifice set against a background of obsession and the clash of traditional and modern cultures … Bissoondath builds psychological tension masterfully, almost imperceptibly, until we become aware that a collision of worlds is inevitable, that this is not Hollywood.” - The Chronicle Herald
“A welcome addition to the fall season … Bissoondath excels at coolly mapping his dual protagonists’ private and converging erotic landscapes.” - Quill and Quire
“Its strength is in the peculiar psychopathy of its narrator and how this is used to bring an unsafe world to hell.” - Montreal Review of Books
“Within this stylish novel … lies a fully formed script for a future Hollywood thriller.” - Literary Review of Canada
“The work of a great author.” - The Rover
“Not since Patricia Highsmith’s Tom Ripley has there existed in fiction a character of such charm, talent, ruthless ambition, and duplicity.” - Carol Windley, author of Home Schooling
“[It] shines as a compelling, reader-friendly story … It’s a cool, tough read that slowly, inexorably takes on the momentum of a thriller … The novel’s closing pages are audacious and breathtaking, completely unpredictable, but free of any sense of authorial machination and rooted firmly in the secrets and lies of the characters … it is impossible to overlook its thematic underpinnings, and it is the combination of these two aspects that lends The Soul of All Great Designs its rare power and brilliance … It’s a powerful, undeniable sentiment, and Bissoondath’s depiction of its visceral, human cost makes The Soul of All Great Designs one of the finest novels of the year.” - Robert Wiersema, author of Before I Wake
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