The Peacock Feast: A Novel (Paperback)
From “one of the most perceptive, compassionate writers of fiction in America...immensely talented and brave” (Michael Schaub, NPR), a historical saga about love, class, and the past we never escape.
The Peacock Feast opens on a June day in 1916 when Louis C. Tiffany, the eccentric glass genius, dynamites the breakwater at Laurelton Hall—his fantastical Oyster Bay mansion, with columns capped by brilliant ceramic blossoms and a smokestack hidden in a blue-banded minaret—so as to foil the town from reclaiming the beach for public use. The explosion shakes both the apple crate where Prudence, the daughter of Tiffany’s prized gardener, is sleeping and the rocks where Randall, her seven-year-old brother, is playing.
Nearly a century later, Prudence receives an unexpected visit at her New York apartment from Grace, a hospice nurse and the granddaughter of Randall, who Prudence never saw again after he left at age fourteen for California. The mementos Grace carries from her grandfather’s house stir Prudence’s long-repressed memories and bring her to a new understanding of the choices she made in work and love, and what she faces now in her final days.
Spanning the twentieth century and three continents, The Peacock Feast ricochets from Manhattan to San Francisco, from the decadent mansions of the Tiffany family to the death row of a Texas prison, and from the London consultation room of Anna Freud to a Mendocino commune. With psychological acuity and aching eloquence, Lisa Gornick has written a sweeping family drama, an exploration of the meaning of art and the art of dying, and an illuminating portrait of how our decisions reverberate across time and space.
About the Author
Lisa Gornick is the author of Louisa Meets Bear, Tinderbox, and A Private Sorcery. Her stories and essays have appeared widely, including in The New York Times, The Paris Review, Prairie Schooner, Real Simple, and The Wall Street Journal. She holds a B.A. from Princeton and a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Yale, and is on the faculty of the Columbia University Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research. A long-time New Yorker, she lives in Manhattan with her family.
“The Best New Books Coming Out Winter 2019”—Southern Living
“Ten Books to Read this February 2019”—BBC-Culture
“Notable New Releases, February 2019”—Publishers Lunch
“Forthcoming Historical Novels for 2019"—Historical Novel Society
“29 of 2019’s Most Amazing Books, TV Shows and Movies to Make Note of Now”—Next Tribe
“The Best New Books for Your Beach Bag in Early 2019”–Acqualina
"The Peacock Feast is one of those rare books that feels both grand and intimate, bringing the reader deeply into a very vivid past. Lisa Gornick has written an engrossing and impressive book."
"Fun, trenchant, immersive . . . but on top of that I got historical and psychological mystery, art history, and several different lush settings . . . Exactly the book I needed."
—Rebecca Makkai, Electric Literature
"[An] intricate, emotionally complex and glorious chronicle . . . Swerves and fatal mistakes abound . . . [in] this magical novel."
—Jane Ciabattari, BBC
“A great novel, which [The Peacock Feast] surely is, transports us through time, place and into the souls of its characters . . . Gornick has given her readers a tale suffused with pathos and moral imperative, which tugs kindly and powerfully at our hearts.”
—Lloyd Sederer, New York Journal of Books
"Luxurious . . . It's a book that beckons readers to get lost in its tapestry."
—Jacqueline Cutler, The Star Ledger
“[A] wonderfully complex, many-stranded novel . . . The Peacock Feast is marvelously rich in character, event and locale . . . A thoroughly rewarding novel and, though not terribly long, a truly mighty one.”
—Katherine A. Powers, Newsday
"[An] intricate, psychologically keen work . . . Gornick's enthralling novel moves from the mansions of Oyster Bay to the communes of California, from Europe to America, propelling this wonderful work of fiction through family secrets and mysteries."
—The National Book Review
“A time-switching story that focuses on relationships and character development and not the recitation of historical facts . . . The Peacock Feast doesn’t have the contemporary, fast-paced sense of so many historical novels today, instead embracing an old-fashioned feel. It’s more 'tea in the drawing room' than #wineandbooks on Instagram, with ambling sentences meant to be read and not binged, and a sense of literary leisure at times evocative of the Gilded Age that anchors it."
—Jennifer Klepper, Washington Independent Review of Books
"Gornick braids the lives of three generations across a span of 100 years in this vivid novel . . . [Her] prose is strong throughout; this is an intricately threaded story of family, secrets, loss, and closure."
"Spanning a century, two coasts, and two continents, this well-researched historical novel is moving and profound."
—Lauren Gilbert, Library Journal
"Delicately weaving Grace's present with Prudence's past, acclaimed novelist Gornick spins an appealing and enthralling family saga."
—Carol Haggas, Booklist
"The deftness of Gornick's talent is visible in the hints and glimpses of the past . . . Finely observed and ultimately redemptive."
"Gornick has given us a beautifully written book, complex with characters' stories across four generations. For all the sorrow and heartbreak in her character's lives, we are left with understanding and hope."
“For the thrill of discovering a new favorite author, try Lisa Gornick’s sweeping historical novel The Peacock Feast.”
—Dawn Raffel, NextTribe
"You cannot stop paying attention for a single sentence in this book. It's so beautifully woven . . . A masterpiece."
—Marrie Stone, KUCI, “Writers on Writing”
"The Peacock Feast is a dazzling panorama of a novel—moving from a Tiffany mansion to a gardener’s tenement apartment to a sixties’ commune to a death row unit to an old woman’s beautifully decorated last room. The forces of social history and the forces of personal trauma weave the remarkable plot, and readers will be left applauding."
—Joan Silber, winner of the 2018 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction and the 2018 Pen/Faulkner Award for Fiction
"An explosive moment that shatters generations, a buried trauma, the unspoken weight of history: In this original and beautifully rendered novel, two women, strangers to each other, hold pieces of a puzzle they can only construct together. Weaving fact and fiction to paint the evolution of a family over the sweep of a century, Lisa Gornick plumbs the connections that transform lives in a book that is both gripping and elegantly nuanced."
—Christina Baker Kline, author of the #1 New York Times Best Seller Orphan Train