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Harper Collins

A Country of Eternal Light - Paul Dalgarno

A Country of Eternal Light - Paul Dalgarno

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An astonishingly inventive, playful, witty, poignant and deeply moving novel from one of Australia's most exciting writers.


Margaret Bryce, deceased mother of twins, has been having a hard time since dying in 2014. These days she spends time with her daughters – Eva in Madrid, and Rachel and her family in Melbourne – and her estranged husband, Henry, in Aberdeen. Mostly she enjoys the experience of revisiting the past, but she's tiring of the seemingly random events to which she repeatedly bears witness. There must be something more to life, she thinks. And death.

Spanning more than seventy-five years, from 1945 to 2021, A Country of Eternal Light follows Margaret as she flits from wartime Germany to Thatcher's Britain to modern-day Scotland, Australia and Spain, ruminating on everything from the Piper Alpha oil rig disaster and Australia's Black Summer bushfires to Mary Queen of Scots' beheading, the death of Princess Diana and in-vitro fertilisation. But why is facing up to what's happened in one's past as hard as, if not harder than, blocking it out completely? A poignant, utterly original and bitingly funny novel about complicated grief and how we remain wanted by our loved ones, dead or alive.


'Prepare to have your heart broken and mended and broken again as you flit with everywoman Margaret Bryce - Aberdonian housewife and unwilling phantom - through scenes in her life that tumble over its boundaries. Paul Dalgarno writes with mischievous delight and compassionate intelligence on that which animates us in the face of mortality, exhuming what is unremembered with clear-eyed wisdom and impeccable craft. I gasped in sheer wonder on finishing this illuminating meditation on the demands of grief, time and love that fragment and bind a family; Mary Shelley would clap her hands in delight at such an audacious creation' – Josephine Taylor, author of Eye of a Rook

'Paul Dalgarno's luminous novel is transportive, taking us on a metaphysical literary journey that interrogates the nature of death while exploring the outer limits of grief. Uncanny, evocative and droll, A Country of Eternal Light reminds us that no one is ever truly gone and sometimes, like this book, we don't want them to leave' – Chris Flynn, author of Mammoth

'A balance of electric brightness and sequestered shadows - a powerful, rollicking and memorable narrative. The reader is invited to be intimate with the experience of revisiting the past, hoping for the future and regretting what cannot be changed. A philosophical, emotional and entertaining work, startlingly imagined' – Angela Meyer, author of A Superior Spectre

'Wonderful, heartbreaking and beautiful. Dalgarno weaves time, family and love effortlessly. A book that will continue to echo in my heart' – R.W.R. McDonald, author of The Nancys

'Such playfulness of language and gloriousness of detail. So unique and inventive. I am in awe' – Michelle Johnston, author of Tiny Uncertain Miracles

'A magical and invigorating ride. A joyful, tender novel about an unusual family, showing playfulness at every turn' – Laura Elvery, author of Ordinary Matter

'Wildly inventive and bursting with heart, Paul Dalgarno's A Country of Eternal Light is one of the most original meditations on life, love and family you'll ever come across. At its core are the questions: how is a life constructed from the memories we choose to remember, and what of those we'll do anything to forget? A kaleidoscopic novel wrestling with grand ideas, featuring an unforgettable protagonist and a sting in the tail that'll have you rushing back to the beginning to figure out how Dalgarno executed his devastating sleight-of-hand' – Wayne Marshall, author of Shirl

'I absolutely adored this book and the dark whimsy of its big-hearted narrator. A delicate exploration of love, loss and the small (yet significant) details that make up a human life, A Country of Eternal Light will both devastate and sustain you long after its final page' – Imbi Neeme, author of The Spill

'A startlingly ambitious novel ... astonishingly accomplished, bittersweet, poignant and funny. Paul Dalgarno has gifted the world something quite rare. A novel that is not only an immersive, engaging, and entertaining read, but one that makes us think. A Country of Eternal Light arouses one's curiosity in a way that few novels can do. The year is young indeed, but I am quietly confident this wonderful novel might well be my favourite read for 2023.' Readings

'Playful ... shimmering ... a delight ... [Dalgarno] is an author whose sense of playfulness establishes the terms and conditions of an eminently readable narrator: charismatic yet patient, moulded by an elastic sense of the plausible, and yet anchored by exactly the right feeling for the truths that matter most when confronted with the long view of a life in full.' Sydney Morning Herald

'Often playful and always deep, an underlying sadness penetrates these pages. Then again, so does joy, with passages capable of eliciting laughter and tears in quick succession ... these reruns of life combine humour and heart with beautiful prose, in glorious detail ... A Country of Eternal Light overflows with beauty and pain, twin concepts with emotional tendrils that are irrevocably intertwined. A subtle sense of foreboding permeates this stunning narrative about the ephemeral nature of human life, culminating in a conclusion capable of cracking a reader in two.' Artshub

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