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About the book
  • Published: 1 October 2009
  • ISBN: 9780099513223
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 592
  • RRP: $29.99

Miss Herbert

Formats & editions

A totally original new work about the international connections between novelists and their works by a witty and accomplished young writer.

The secret history of novelists is often a history of exile and tourism – a history of language learning. Like the story of Gustave Flaubert and Juliet Herbert, it is a history of loss and mistakes. As Flaubert finished Madame Bovary, Miss Herbert, his niece's governess, translated the novel into English. But this translation has since been lost.

Translation, and emigration, is the way into a new history of the novel. We assume that we can read novels in translation. We also assume that style does not translate. But the history of the novel is the history of style. Miss Herbert solves this conundrum.

This book is not a novel, but an inside-out novel – with novelists as characters. It demonstrates a new way of reading internationally complete with maps, illustrations, and helpful diagrams. And it includes a slim appendix: 'Mademoiselle O', a story by Vladimir Nabokov, written in French, about his own governess, never before fully translated into English.

  • Pub date: 1 October 2009
  • ISBN: 9780099513223
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 592
  • RRP: $29.99

About the Author

Adam Thirlwell

Adam Thirlwell is the author of two novels, Politics and The Escape; a novella, Kapow!; and a project including an essay-book – which won a Somerset Maugham Award – and a compendium of translations edited for McSweeney’s. His work is translated into thirty languages. He has twice been selected as one of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists.

Also by Adam Thirlwell

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Praise for Miss Herbert

“A sort of literary common-place book...a deft and thought-provoking piece of work'”

Independent on Sunday

“Every page has good things”



Sunday Times

“A thought-provoking book...written with intelligence, wit and great enthusiasm”


“The scholarly showmanship is impressive and he flourishes his paradoxes with panache”

Tom Deveson, Sunday Times


Colin Waters, Sunday Herald

“Thirlwell loves these people and it shows”

William Leith, Evening Standard

“Miss Herbert is certainly accomplished”

Philippa Lewis, Observer

“Lots of things here are superb. He tells you about Flaubert, Proust, Tolstoy, Cervantes, Chekov and Nabokov, and unearths lovely details about them...Thrilwell loves these people, and it shows”

William Leith, The Scotsman

“You don't have to read half the books he analyses, or speak half the languages he quotes, to enjoy this engaging book”

James Smart, Guardian

“This year's most richly pleasurable reading experience”

Sunday Telegraph

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