A brilliant novel from one of the world’s most influential literary critics.
Upstate is a funny, moving family drama from one of the world’s most influential literary critics.
‘Thoughtful and though-provoking’ Financial Times
Alan Querry, a successful property developer from the north of England, has two daughters: Vanessa, a philosopher who lives and teaches in Saratoga Springs, NY, and Helen, a record company executive based in London. The sisters never quite recovered from their parents’ bitter divorce and the early death of their mother, with Vanessa particularly affected, and plagued by bouts of depression since her teenage years.
When she suffers a new crisis, Alan and Helen travel to Saratoga Springs. Over the course of six wintry days in upstate New York, the Querry family begins to struggle with the questions that animate this profound and searching novel: Why do some people find living so much harder than others?
Rich in subtle human insight, and vivid with a sense of place, Upstate is a perceptive, intensely poignant novel.
“Wood can produce sentences as fine as bone china.”
Claire Allfree, Daily Mail
“Those who know Wood as the New Yorker's literary critic would do well to pick up his novels, too. Upstate is a funny, moving family drama.”
“Captures the anxious plight of a loving father with exquisite delicacy … Its affections are large and its wisdom deep … One can’t help but feel enriched by the treasure of Wood’s sweet-tempered wit.”
Ron Charles, Washington Post
“Its energy derives from feted critic James Wood's observational chops, and you can expect muscular descriptions ... and modest, deeply humane revelations ... Polished, poignant and often very funny.”
Hephzibah Anderson, Mail on Sunday
“Uncharted physical and emotional terrain collide in James Wood’s thoughtful and thought-provoking second novel Upstate, a deceptively gentle exploration of the wounds of the past, the complex mesh of family relationships and the ways in which they aid or obstruct our strategies for healing … stubbornly true to life.”
Rebecca Abrams, Financial Times
“Wood's insightful novel is short but deep, possessing the openness of a short story … The writing is beautiful, the location snow-crunchingly real … A quietly engrossing read.”
Ella Walker, Herald
“Moving... Perfectly pitched by Wood.”
Ben Hamilton, Spectator
“[James Wood] has a canny eye for detail, writes a good metaphor ... and sets his scenes meticulously.”
James Marriott, The Times
“There is much to admire [in Upstate]... flashes of brilliance at sentence level... This is how fiction works.”
David Annand, Literary Review
“Upstate, a new novel by the literary critic James Wood, asks readers to consider a fundamental question: can one think one’s way into happiness? ... Everything [Wood] does is underscored by humour. A great strength of Upstate is its general snap and vigour, and one sees this across Wood's criticism, too.”
Emma Brockes, Guardian
“With Upstate, Wood turns the tables … Upstate is a book about being broken, people and nations both … A rich and slowburn tale.”
Rosemary Goring, Herald
“With a lovely warmth … Coupled with a fine, light touch … Upstate has a confident quietness which also suits the region of England from where its characters hail.”
Jonathan McAloon, Irish Times
“Big philosophical questions are pursued in a tale of love and mental breakdown from a leading literary critic.”
Lara Feigel, Guardian
“Short but deep and quietly engrossing.”
Julian Cole, Yorkshire Post