Once the Orme family’s magnificent ancestral estate, Observatory Mansions is now a crumbling apartment complex, home to an eccentric group of misfits. One of them is Francis Orme, who earns his livelihood as a living statue. When not practicing “inner and outer stillness,” Francis steals the cherished possessions of others to add to his private museum. The other tenants are equally as odd: his mother and father, who haven’t interacted in years; a man who continually sweats and cries; a recluse who prefers television to reality; and a woman who behaves like a dog. When Anna Tapp arrives among them she stirs their souls, bringing long forgotten memories to the surface–and arousing fears that this new resident intends to provoke a metamorphosis.
Observatory Mansions ‘proves the potential brilliance of the novel form.’ – John Fowles
‘In his world, there are no ordinary people; everything is a seething mass of repressed desires, murderous impulses, and obsessive-compulsive tics. While this view of human nature might sound disturbing, it is conveyed with so much sympathy and acute observation that it is hard not to be beguiled. Far from being grotesque the other tenants of Carey’s loving built microcosm come across as rather admirable in their last-ditch resistance to conventional reality.’ The Times (London)
‘A macabre, colourful, morally complex first novel. A superb debut.’ – Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
‘Impressive, darkly idiosyncratic, sharply observed…an absorbing, unconventional, seriocomic Odyssey.’ – Publishers Weekly (starred review)
‘Readers who complain there’s no originality left in the world should visit Observatory Mansions’ – USA Today
Alva and Irva Dapps are identical twin sisters who live in the city of Entralla. Like the Emerald City, Gondal, and Brobdingnag, only one guidebook to the place exists, and this novel is it. Alva is an explorer who longs to travel the world. Irva is a recluse for whom stepping outside the house is an ordeal. Yet the twins feel each other’s emotions, think each other’s thoughts, love and hate and suffer as one–they cannot survive without one another. And thereby hangs an inventive tale of creativity, obsession, and genius bred by necessity. Together, the twins build a model of the city on a scale that might accommodate the desires of both sisters and comes to serve Entralla in a way its creators never could have imagined.
‘The emphasis on detail in Carey’s sweetly detached, exact prose has forebears in the illuminated dreams of Borges and Calvino and Georges Perec…As life becomes ever more shocking, we may need more than ever the fantastic in literature to evoke the true and terrible in what we are pleased to call everyday reality.’ – The New York Times
“Carey involves you in the way we live secret lives, the way we try to wring order out of chaos, the way time tinkers with memory and history.’ – The Independent
‘…a book that starts out playfully weird becomes a beautifully affecting – and eminently topical – exploration of urban destruction, the persistence of hope, and the human need to memorialize. In the process it turns into a much broader and deeper book: a triumph of pure vigorous imagination – a sad tale of obsession – and a grimly plausible portrait of a city overwhelmed by catastrophe.’ – Patrick McGrath, Bomb Magazine
‘Besides realism, there is an older tradition of the novel, in which people, events, places – or two or all of those elements – are quite awry. Carey’s amazing, amusing and affecting second novel belongs to that tradition…a genuine human comedy.’ – Booklist