A big, bold and hauntingly beautiful story that captures a defining moment in Australia's history.
Everywhere he looked he saw what Utzon saw. The drama of harbour and horizon, and at night, the star-clotted sky. It held the shape of the possible, of a promise made and waiting to be kept …
In 1965 as Danish architect Jørn Utzon’s striking vision for the Sydney Opera House transforms the skyline and unleashes a storm of controversy, the shadow of the Vietnam War and a deadly lottery threaten to tear the country apart.
Journalist Pearl Keogh, exiled to the women’s pages after being photographed at an anti-war protest, is desperate to find her two missing brothers and save them from the draft. Axel Lindquist, a visionary young glass artist from Sweden, is obsessed with creating a unique work that will do justice to Utzon’s towering masterpiece.
In this big, bold and hauntingly beautiful portrait of art and life, Shell captures a world on the brink of seismic change though the eyes of two unforgettable characters caught in the eye of the storm.
And reminds us why taking a side matters.
Praise for Shell
‘A luminous look at a city at a time of change, a time when the building of the Sydney Opera House was a reach for greatness.’ The New York Times
‘Olsson’s writing is beautiful, captivating, and is enough in itself to recommend this book … Her descriptions are vivid, evocative.’ New York Journal of Books
‘A classic in the making.’ Australian Financial Review
‘A shimmering love letter to Sydney, with the husk of the emerging Opera House its beating heart … Required reading’ Australian Women’s Weekly
Kristina Olsson is a journalist and the award-winning author of the novels Shell, In One Skin, and The China Garden, and two works of nonfiction, Boy, Lost: A Family Memoir and Kilroy was Here. She lives in Brisbane, Australia.
‘A luminous look at a city at a time of change, a time when the building of the Sydney Opera House was a reach for greatness.’
– The New York Times
‘Olsson’s writing is beautiful, captivating, and is enough in itself to recommend this book … Her descriptions are vivid, evocative.’
– New York Journal of Books
‘A classic in the making.’
– Australian Financial Review
‘Evocative, learned and moving...’
– The Sunday Times UK
‘This is a novel with a sharp eye, a warm heart and sprawling ambitions, painted on the most splendid canvas of all.’
– The Australian
‘Beautiful and glowing … a book that glows with golden light, with arguments about art and belief, while it is also infused with the politics of its characters and its time.’
– The Bookshelf, ABC
‘Shell is a novel packed with ideas, rich in detail and dense with research … as clear and delicate as liquid glass … ’
– New Zealand Listener
‘A beautifully crafted, spellbinding story of love, loss and identity, set in the shadow of the Vietnam War, for readers who loved All the Light We Cannot See and The Goldfinch.’
‘This narrative of war and hope, the old and the new world, makes Shell a novel of energy and enlightenment, and, to boot, a source of delightful reading.’
– Tom Keneally
‘A timely reminder of the importance of making a stand on the things that really matter...’
‘Olsson uses the building of the Sydney Opera House as the backdrop for a contemplative story of personal guilt and political upheaval.’
– Publishers Weekly
‘It has a sensory aesthetic and a gentle fluidity.’
– The Guardian
‘Olsson delivers a brilliant snapshot of the swinging sixties, a poignant story of family and of emotional upheaval, with hope running like a thread of gold throughout all that happens.’
– Better Reading
‘Olsson's subtle and nuanced tale displays how deeply the past - or at least one's perception of it - informs life in the present.’
– Kirkus Reviews
‘A beautifully crafted novel about a fascinating time in our history. There is a luminous precision in every sentence.’
– Heather Rose, award-winning author of The Museum of Modern Love
‘Shell is a brilliant and beautiful novel, full of lyrical grace and sensitive observation … And at its centre: the Sydney Opera House; not simply an icon, but reimagined as art object, aspiration, and a kind of international dream …’
– Gail Jones, award-winning author of Five Bells and The Death of Noah Glass
‘A masterful novel, as ethereal and shimmering and magical as the book’s beating heart, the Sydney Opera House … It’s fair to say that Shell shares its majesty’
– Matthew Condon, award-winning author of The Trout Opera and Three Crooked Kings
‘Shell sanctifies the greatest of our ideas and being, from love, courage and betrayal to creation and dissent … It’s the kind of book that opens out its readers, making them think and feel. It’s the kind of book I’ll carry with me for all time’
– Ashley Hay, award-winning author of The Railwayman’s Wife
‘Olsson’s American debut features lyrical writing that brings the cultural upheaval of 1960s Australia vividly to life, and readers who appreciate leisurely paced, thoughtful literary fiction will savour each word of this emotional story of two people – and a country – reckoning with their past and future.’
‘A shimmering love letter to Sydney, with the husk of the emerging Opera House its beating heart … Required reading’
– Australian Women’s Weekly
‘It’s my Book of the Year, and it might even be the Book of the Decade, in the same way that Kim Scott’s That Deadman Dance turned out to be a Book of the Decade, for me.’
– Lisa Hill, ANZlitlovers.com
‘Beautifully written and historically significant … Olsson writes almost pointillist prose, her narrative illuminated by vivid dabs of insight, images that speak intimately to heart and eye.’
– Adelaide Advertiser
‘This is a novel the reader experiences on the skin as well as in the imagination … the narrative is a glinting prism through which Olsson examines questions of ethical, emotional, and creative life ’
– Susan Wyndham, Australian Book Review
‘Sweeping and uniquely Australian novel of art and culture, love and destiny.’
– Fraser Coast Chronicle
‘Like a melody that resonates long after the song ends, this is one of those rare books that lingers in the readers mind …’
– The Sunday Telegraph
‘Olsson transcribes Sydney into an exquisite visual palette, forcing the reader to pay attention to her stunning language. A complex and provocative novel of ideas.’
– Sydney Morning Herald
‘This masterfully written historical novel will be one of the most captivating books you will read the summer’
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