A fiercely intelligent and moving second novel from the author of the acclaimed The Wilderness.
It is late summer in London. Leonard Deppling returns to the capital from Scotland, where he has spent the past year nursing his dying father. Missing from the funeral was his younger brother William, who lives in the north of the city with his wife and two young sons. Leonard is alone, and rootless – separated from his partner, and on an extended sabbatical from work. He moves in with William, hoping to renew their friendship, and to unite their now diminished family.
William is a former lecturer and activist – serious, defiantly unworldly and forever questioning – a man who believes in the maxim, ‘true knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing’, and who spends his life examining the extent of his ignorance: running informal meetings and symposiums with ex-students and local residents.
Leonard realises he must once again drop his expectations about the norms of brotherhood and return to the ‘island of understanding’ the two have shared for so long. As the summer progresses, he is able to observe William and his strange life, and comes to share the anxieties of his late father, and of William’s wife, that his behaviour will lead to disaster – as it nearly did many years before.
But it seems William has already set his own fate in motion, when news comes of a young student who has followed one of his arguments to a shocking conclusion. Rather than submit, William embraces the danger in the only way he knows how – a decision which threatens to consume not only himself, but his entire family.
Set against the backdrop of growing national unrest, tabloid frenzies and an escalating fuel crisis, All Is Song is a novel about filial and moral duty, and about the choice of questioning above conforming. It is a work of remarkable perception, intensity and resonance from one of Britain’s most promising young writers.
“Intense, rewarding and bracingly serious”
Adrian Turpin, Financial Times
“Profoundly beautiful, cathartic writing.”
Catherine Taylor, Daily Telegraph
“A fine study of the nature and strength of family ties and the morality, or otherwise, of conforming where it matters”
Kate Saunders, The Times
“This beautifully written composition does that rare thing, of provoking free thought, while scrutinising the far-reaching repercussions of such rebellious activity”
Freya McClelland, Independent
“Harvey's slow, intense thoughtfulness feels positively Woolfean at times. She thinks deeply, and writes beautifully about these thoughts.”
Lucy Atkins, Sunday Times
“This is a novel of ideas that also creates believable characters and explores complex relationships. Harvey's prose is graceful and unhurried, full of sharp observation and moments of subtly understated pathos”
Carol Birch, Guardian
“There's still something compelling in the way Harvey resists the easy and the obvious. The result is a novel of both depth and defiance”
Natasha Tripney, Observer
“A moving novel about family duty and friendship set against a London backdrop of national unrest”
“Deftly controlled and exquisitely measured”
Brian Donaldson, The List
“How would Socrates get on in 21st century Britain? This is the question at the heart of Samantha Harvey's ambitious second novel”
James Walton, Daily Mail
“The beauty of the intense plot lies in its economy. The novel is so finely tuned, it is hard to find any passage where she is not fully in control. No matter how dramatic the events she describes, they never drown the ideas being discussed.”
Anna Aslanyan, Literary Review
“Harvey's talent is in the details of both characters and relationships that seem trivial but are telling ... Harvey is a master of language, adept at both Wildean one-liners ... and more profound expression”
Rosamund Urwin, Evening Standard
“In this Socrates-like story Samantha Harvey examines a dramatic sibling relationship whilst questioning the place of philosophy in modern life”
Big Issue in the North
“Lovely observations on a sibling relationship”
Lesley McDowell, Glasgow Sunday Herald
“Graceful and full of sharp observation and moments of understated pathos”
Carol Birch, Guardian