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'A slender, intelligent fiction written in ravishing prose... If I read a better novel this year, I shall think myself lucky' - Sunday Telegraph Shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction and the Whitbread Novel Award.

The Nautilus, a strange building shaped like the chambered shell of the same name, was built in South London in the early 1930s. Designed on Modernist and Utopian principles, it was a haven for a floating community of cosmopolitan refugees, intellectuals and artists.

Now, at the end of the century, only two of the original inhabitants still occupy their chambers - Celeste Zylberstein, joint architect with her late husband of the Nautilus, and Francis Campion, an elderly poet. Gus Crabb, a dealer in bric-a-brac, is the only other resident until, to the Nautilus, like a hermit crab seeking a home, comes Rowena Snow. Of Indian/Scottish parentage, orphaned, without family or friends, Rowena is in search of her own Utopia - or the Heligoland of her childhood imagination.

Shorlisted for the Orange Prize for fiction and the Whitbread Novel Award.


With what tenderness, rage, wit and accuracy Mackay writes about loneliness and belonging-What a brilliant novel this is

Independent on Sunday

Elegant, elusive... The writing is superb-[Mackay's] gentle mastery of language is quite beyond showy displays of technique


An intriguing, witty and provocative story

Daily Mail

Tender, funny and wonderfully realised

Sunday Express

Shena Mackay is a national treasure... She has achieved that rarest of things for a writer: creating a world that is utterly her own

Daily Telegraph

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    October 31, 2012

    Vintage Digital

    208 pages

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