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In the Garden of the Fugitives

3.26  ·  Rating details ·  460 ratings  ·  98 reviews
Celebrated by The New York Times as “a gifted prose stylist,” Ceridwen Dovey returns with a startling tale of obsession, control, and identity

Almost twenty years after forbidding him to contact her, Vita receives a letter from a man who has long stalked her from a distance. Once, Royce was her benefactor and she was one of his brightest protégées. Now Royce is ailing and V
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published May 8th 2018 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Brooke - One Woman's Brief Book Reviews That was my interpretation of the ending!

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Average rating 3.26  · 
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Dannii Elle
Actual rating 4.5/5 stars.

In the Garden of the Fugitives has one of the most intriguing titles, covers, and synopsis!

This follows modern-day Royce and Vita as they reflect back upon their days as freshmen at Harvard university. Royce, some years older than Vita, spent a fateful summer on an archaeological dig in Pompeii, as part of his degree. More than ancient ruins were unearthed there and something, long-buried in the dust, is now returning that seems bent on destroying them both. Vita was th
Michael Livingston
Mar 15, 2018 rated it liked it
This was a real puzzle of a book - the slightly awkward epistolary structure, the intersecting stories that barely intersect and the obsession with unreliable narration made me wonder whether I was really *getting* it. The writing is sublime, and the ruminations on race, guilt, power, sex and creativity engaging, but I couldn't help feel that I'd slightly missed something by the end. This is one to ponder - I'm looking forward to seeing what others think. ...more
Brooke - One Woman's Brief Book Reviews

In the Garden of the Fugitives by Ceridwen Dovey. (2018).

Almost 20 years ago Vita forbid her benefactor Royce from contacting her but she has just received an email from him. While they share a murky history, they have both also lost loved ones; one to an untimely death and the other to a strange disappearance. Both are also trying to free themselves from their pasts - Vita from the inheritance of her birthplace and Royce from the grip of the ancient city Pompeii an
Jun 02, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: giveaways
I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway.

Here's what I think about this...

A rambling discourse between two people which starts nowhere, goes nowhere and ends ...

There are writers - and among them, many of the best - who really, really really - r e a l l y - want to show off how much they know. Of course they do! What we know is what we write about BEST! Only natural to throw in odd, mundane, little-known details here and there. A dash of Pompeii, a sprinkle of South African farming - it's all goo
Theresa Smith
Mar 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: aww2018
In The Garden Of The Fugitives is such an absorbing novel, it borders on addictive. Stylised as an exchange of correspondence between two people who have been estranged for twenty years, the entire is novel is a back and forth between Royce and Vita, a confessional for them both, although they each embark upon it for different reasons.

The voyeurism attached to the exchange, the nature of confession, where it begins with an agenda but moves into a cathartic response, was utterly absorbing. It wa
Jan 03, 2018 rated it liked it
This book orbits around themes of guilt and shame and is a kind of reckoning for our protagonists Vita and Royce. The form used is letter/email writing and this quickly gave the book a pretension I couldn’t abide. Vita and Royce rarely engage with each other’s letters and simply pick up thoughts and stories they left off with. I perhaps need to let my thoughts settle but my main sentiment on finishing is disappointment.
Anna Baillie-Karas
Apr 11, 2018 rated it it was ok
An original book with assured writing, exploring guilt and obsession. It’s getting rave reviews, so I urge you to try it. Unfortunately, it wasn’t for me. Normally I would bail on a book I’m not enjoying, but we’re discussing this in an upcoming podcast so I persevered. So I feel a little unfair giving a negative review because normally I edit my reading so that I cut out books that don’t work for me. I think Ceridwen Dovey is a talented, intelligent writer with a strong vision & I’m intrigued t ...more
Apr 24, 2018 rated it it was ok
This kind of book needs a more nuanced version of star rating! It deserves far more stars for the quality of the prose, and that's what kept me reading. I admire her sense of place, and I learned new things about Pompeii - but as a novel, it failed for me, because the two main characters are so pathetic.

Vita is a self-centred, entitled young woman. She complains about being poor, but when her parents send her to study at a foreign university, she wastes the opportunity by taking an arty-farty de
Jan 27, 2018 rated it liked it
Lots to think about. One diabolically awful narrator, one pathetically so. Beautiful writing, fascinating glimpses into the history of Pompei. 3 stars? 4 stars? Still not really sure. A sometimes arduous read but a lush and rewarding one.
May 12, 2018 rated it did not like it
Correspondence between a stalker and the object of his affection make up this book. A unique concept that fell flat in its execution. Both characters were so irritating and self-righteous that I couldn't care less about their story. ...more
*To contextualise my viewpoint, I am writing this review off the back of having just attended an event where Ceridwen Dovey was interviewed about this very book, and that has certainly sharpened my own understanding of its contents.

In the Garden of the Fugitives is an epistolary novel juxtaposing two characters: Vita, an undergraduate student interested in filmmaking, and an older man, Royce, who funds her pursuits via a scholarship. The novel starts with Royce reaching out to Vita, after a long
Jennifer (JC-S)
‘Our memories are always imperfect, Kitty used to say. We have to leave ourselves clues—photos, scrapbooks, journals—or our very own pasts become inaccessible, though we lived through every moment.’

Seventeen years ago, Vita wrote to Royce and told him never to contact her again. But now he is dying and decides to contact her anyway. Contact resumes, in the form of email exchanges between the two. The narrative takes us via these email exchanges, through their selected memories. Royce is elderly,
Nell Beaudry
In the Garden of the Fugitives, Ceridwen Dovey's newest offering, dives into history both personal and global with an effortless, elegant touch. The entire story is revealed through the correspondence of Royce and Vita, who haven't spoken in nearly twenty years. A story of love, control, and obsession, the two excavate their personal histories against the wider narrative of the archaeological work being done in Pompeii in the late 1940s, when Royce was a young man. The central figure here is Kit ...more
Dec 15, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

we follow Royce and Vita as they reflect back upon their days as freshmen at Harvard. both characters are trying to find peace, and don’t necessarily engage honestly (or at all) with their correspondent. i kinda liked it but i also didn't. perhaps i need to stop buying books just because the cover is pretty.
Mar 11, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adl-ww-2018

In this series of emails exchanged between Royce and Vita, tales of love, obsession, guilt and healing emerge against the backdrops of Pompeii and Cape Town respectively. Both characters are trying to find peace, and don’t necessarily engage honestly (or at all) with their correspondent.

I found Royce’s sections far more compelling, given the tragedy presaged early on, but Vita’s sense of being lost comes across in her narrative quite well. I didn’t really like either character, but unusually
Tzu-Mainn Chen
Dec 02, 2018 rated it it was ok
The flap for “In the Garden of the Fugitives” implies that it’s something akin to a psychological thriller: an old man and his former protege reconnect years after a traumatic experience drives them apart. Told through a series of written letters, dark secrets and hidden agendas and psychological damage are revealed, leading to...

... well, not much. The two narratives - a man obsessed over a dead woman that he stalked in rather creeptacular fashion, a young white South African woman struggling w
Apr 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Two things compelled me to pick up this book: the gorgeous cover and the fact I loved the author's earlier short story collection 'Only the Animals'.
Dovey's writing is just as good in this novel and I couldn't help but get caught up in the unravelling stories of Royce and Vita.
Will keep reading anything this Australian author brings out. She's extremely skilled at her craft.
Feb 03, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm not usually one for the forced tone and repetitive structure of epistolary novels, however, I was hooked on Ceridwen Dovey's In the Garden of the Fugitives from the very beginning.

Almost twenty years after forbidding contact, Vita receives a letter from Royce, who was once her benefactor. Vita, a film and ethnography student in her youth, was one of his brightest protégées.

Vita’s career has stalled, and Royce is dying - "I stew in sickness, and in my own nostalgia” - their correspondence
Apr 17, 2018 rated it it was ok
This is an intelligent and accomplished novel, but one which I found ultimately unsatisfying. It chronicles the revival of correspondence between two characters, the links between whom are only slowly revealed. They have not been in contact for 20 years, but now Royce is on his deathbed and feels impelled to get in touch once again with Vita. He wants to explore their shared past and put to rest, perhaps, the ghosts that haunt him. He is a wealthy philanthropist who has been funding Vita, a film ...more
Clair Sharpe
Nearly 20 years after Vita broke off contact with Royce, he writes to her on his deathbed, determined to excavate the past. He is older than her, a former benefactor from her University days and from the letters between them we learn of their relationship, but this is a small part of the book.
We hear a great deal about Royce's younger days as a student himself and his infatuation with Kitty a fellow student who he helped financially so she could visit an archaeological dig in Pompeii. Vita was
Jul 02, 2020 rated it it was ok
I almost couldn't bring myself to finish this one. This book attempts to be a lot deeper than it really is, with a plot that brings nothing to the table.

There is no character development and no attemptt to make you like/dislike or even understand the characters. Throughout, I kept asking myself: 'do even I care about the anyone?', and the answer is no.
Tess Carrad
Apr 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed reading this, the stories of two people whose lives touched. I was drawn into their confessions and enjoyed travelling to the places they went.
I wish there was more difference of voice between the two characters.
Jan Finkelstein
Jul 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
It was wonderful to read. So well written.
Jessica Reads & Rambles
Nov 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
3.5 stars
Jan 27, 2019 rated it liked it
"Didn't see that ending coming!"...
anyone in Pompeii, 79 AD.
Elinda Gjonomadhi
Jun 05, 2019 rated it did not like it
Did not finish this one
Jul 14, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ceridwen Dovey's In the Garden of the Fugitives (2018) begins with a late-life correspondence between two Harvard Graduates: Vita, class of 2003, now about forty, and Royce, class of 1975, now in his sixties and dying. A third character is Kitty Lushingham, Royce's classmate and long-time unrequited love. The primary subject of Royce's letters (emails) is Kitty. Vita is the author's alter ego¬—Dovey is an author and anthropologist born in South Africa, emigrated to Australia and matriculating at ...more
Jessica T.
May 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
The epistolary structure of In the garden of fugitives by Ceridwen Dovey makes for a fast paced read. It begins with a death bed letter from Royce to Vita (the object of his obsession). Royce and Vita's relationship is the starting point but it becomes their individual stories after. This is a hard book to explain. It's a slow burn and so worth it. The themes are guilt, obsession, art, white privilege, youthful mistakes, history, forgiveness, and basically being human.
"I was reminded that each a
Steve lovell
Jul 09, 2018 rated it liked it
It took me a while to warm up to Ms Dovey's creation, although I never doubted her aptitude to wend together, with able wordsmithery, the two dominant strands of her tale. It just took a time for me to become engrossed in it – right up to the final chapters in fact. For much of the reading of it I found the history involved in the archaeological dig around Vesuvius, an aspect of one of the threads, far more interesting than the interlocking saga of the two main protagonists.

Vita is a middle-aged
Bernd Meyer
The book certainly kept me reading and entertained, but ultimately it left me empty. The story is told in two intertwined narratives, through letters exchanged between the two protagonists. The main issue is that the two stories never quite gel - there is simply no reason for both to be there even if they are connected on the surface. Unfortunately, one of the two stories, which details the unchanging infatuation of a rich, privileged youth with a student, is plain boring. The other one, which i ...more
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Ceridwen Dovey grew up in South Africa and Australia, studied as an undergraduate at Harvard, and now lives in Sydney. Her first novel, Blood Kin, was translated into fifteen languages and selected for the US National Book Foundation’s prestigious ‘5 Under 35’ award. J.M. Coetzee called it ‘A fable of the arrogance of power beneath whose dreamlike surface swirl currents of complex sensuality.' Her ...more

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