'The day the great man sang, heat blazed in haloes over Bennelong Point. This is what Pearl will remember, later, this is what she will say: that his voice turned the air holy. Men, sweat-slicked, stood with bowed heads or hung off scaffolds, swatting at flies and tears. Few looked at the singer; they needed all their senses to hear. Needed their whole bodies, skin and eyes and hearts, to absorb what they couldn’t say: that sacredness had returned to this place. It flowed through them on a single human voice, through their bodies and the building that was rising beneath their hands.'
‘A shimmering love letter to Sydney, with the husk of the emerging Opera House its beating heart … Required reading‘ Australian Women’s Weekly
Sydney, 1960s: newspaper reporter Pearl Keogh has been relegated to the women’s pages as punishment for her involvement in the anti-war movement, and is desperate to find her two young brothers before they are conscripted.
Newly arrived from Sweden, Axel Lindquist is set to work as a sculptor on the Sydney Opera House. Haunted by his father’s acts in the Second World War, he seeks solace in his attempts to create a unique piece that will do justice to the vision of Jørn Utzon, the controversial architect of the Opera House’s construction.
Pearl and Axel’s lives orbit and collide, as they both struggle in the eye of the storm. This is a soaring, optimistic novel of art and culture, and of love and fate.
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.
Praise for Shell:
‘Destined to become a classic due to the exquisite imagery of [Olsson’s] prose. If the test of contemporary fiction is whether a second reading delivers fresh layers of insight and meaning, the answer here is an unequivocal yes’ Caroline Baum, Sydney Morning Herald, The Best Books of 2018
‘This narrative of war and hope, architecture and yearning, and old and new world, makes Shell a novel of energy and enlightenment, and, to boot, a source of delightful reading' Thomas Keneally, author of Schindler’s List and In the Name of the Father
‘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
‘This is a novel with a sharp eye, a warm heart and sprawling ambitions, painted on the most splendid canvas of all’ The Australian
'War, architecture, guilt, salvation, politics – this book has a little bit of it all... A fascinating look at Australia during the Vietnam War, the creation of the Sydney Opera House, and the ever-present battle between the violence of war and the beauty of art. Recommended' Historical Novel Society
‘Kristina Olsson is such a graceful, wise and perceptive writer. The woman’s massive heart is one big literary taproot feeding all of us answers about the Australian condition’ Trent Dalton, bestselling author of Boy Swallows Universe