A resounding achievement ... Wood is the real deal: scrupulous in his choice of words, adroit with plot, assiduous about drawing character and engagingly pursuing an ambitious theme. On this last point, The Ecliptic is one of the most absorbing explorations of the artistic process that I’ve ever read in fiction… Wood is startlingly good at conjuring images … Human moments are so very hard to write about inventively and attentively with any kind of freshness; but Wood does so often and deftly ... Wood’s action writing is superbly purposeful and unself-conscious ... I want to celebrate this book because it is rich, beautiful and written by an author of great depth and resource who is clearly giving his all in the service of that most taxing of artistic endeavours: the writing of a fine novel.
Ed Docx, Guardian
Full of suspense and beautifully written. Superbly imagined. A terrifically gripping and playful book. Sunday Times
Exceptionally well done, a concentrated portrait of a lost time and place ... Entertaining and inspired ... asking searching questions about the mixed motivations of any artist ... all wrapped in a mystery that remains tantalising enough to intrigue rather than frustrate the reader. At its best, Wood's novel stands comparison with the work of John Fowles ... fascinating. Andy Miller, The Spectator
Thoughtful and sophisticated ... A subtle and evocative narrative that is deftly interwoven and wonderfully imagined. There are echoes of Eleanor Catton's The Luminaries here and there in the way that The Ecliptic engages both heart and mind, and Wood has something of Donna Tartt's skill for blending big ideas with properly tense thriller plotting. Throw in sumptuous prose and some smart narrative sleight of hand and you have a literary novel that will surely stand the test of time.
Doug Johnstone, The Big Issue
Deftly combining detached humour with tragic overtones, The Ecliptic is both a compelling story and an absorbing meditation on the creative process. Financial Times
Benjamin Wood is a novelist to watch. This is not a novel that gives itself up easily to the reader. But it’s well worth the wrestle. John Sutherland, The Times
An exhilarating, earthy, cerebral, frank and unflinching portrait of [an] artist ... No pale shadow of Wood's excellent debut novel, The Bellwether Revivals, this soars like some exotic creature over the Sea of Marmara, a compelling read ... There is nothing heavy-footed in this narrative about the process of creating, the price paid for sincerity in art and for not compromising, the distorting mirror of accomplishment ... Rather it rings true, and the messiness behind the paintings we enjoy is brilliantly evoked ... A masterfully paced and suspenseful read ... An intensely intimate portrait of an artist as a young woman, with truths on every page. Independent
A stunning novel. In his protagonist, Wood has created one of the most human and moving characters in recent fiction, and his depiction of the 1960s London art world is as compelling as his eerie vision of an artists’ colony that exists outside of the rules of the modern world. A gorgeous and harrowing work.
Emily St. John Mandel, author of Station Eleven
Here is such an intense evocation of the hell of creativity that one might begin to wonder whether art is even worth it. Well, yes, it is, case in point being the novel itself: whatever debilitating mental toll it must have taken on Benjamin Wood to sustain such vividness and intelligence for its entire length, we can all be grateful for the result. Terrific. Ned Beauman, author of Glow and The Teleportation Accident
Exquisitely well-made—not so much written as it is carved by the sharpest of instruments. Dense blocks of gorgeous prose, sculpted so that every edge, line and surface reveals the intelligence within. A highly pleasurable and thought-provoking meditation on art and creativity. Charles Yu, author of How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe
The Ecliptic traces a compelling dual arc through the 1960s art world and the psyche of a talented but traumatized artist. Mysterious and filled with beautiful imagery, the novel transports us to a secret, slightly surreal, and increasingly strange artist colony, before finally revealing—in its breakneck final pages—the full extent to which life takes a toll on art, and art takes a toll on life. Amanda Filipacchi, author of The Unfortunate Importance of Beauty
A thrilling novel that combines fine writing with a propulsive plot, The Ecliptic will rightly appeal to fans of Patricia Highsmith and Donna Tartt. It confirms Benjamin Wood's place as one of Britain's best young writers. Jonathan Lee, author of High Dive
Exceptional and beguiling, never less than in the ascendant from the first page to the last. The kind of book that will keep revealing its powers for a long time to come. David Whitehouse, author of Bed and Mobile Library
A curious and bewitching book that manages to be both profoundly moving and as gripping and unputdownable as a thriller. Outstanding. S. J. Watson, author of Before I Go to Sleep
I cannot recommend it highly enough. Head-spinningly good. Nicci Cloke, author of Lay Me Down
A flawless meditation on creativity and the psychic toll it takes. Not only is it beautifully written, but there's a bloody good twister of a plot that rewards you well beyond the final page. Jessie Burton, author of The Miniaturist and The Muse.
Another Benjamin Wood tour de force. John Ironmonger, author of The Coincidence Authority
I absolutely adored this phenomenal book ... so clever and beautifully written but also so emotionally satisfying. For fans of Kate Atkinson and Eleanor Catton.
Anna James, A Case for Books
A wonderfully written, beautifully detailed, hallucinogenic novel ... Wood adds layer upon layer ... There are carefully researched practicalities of painting, a lovely list of unfamiliar ingredients and processes that transform blank canvases into vivid portraits, landscapes, or abstracts. There is joy when it comes together and a brittle bitterness when it doesn't ... There is also the inescapable suggestion that art is akin to madness ... all of which adds to this rich, strange, and clever novel. 5/5. Eithne Farry, Sunday Express
A riveting tale of obsession and loss, with vivid insight into the way art can feel like both hell and heaven.
Psychologies, Book of the Month
The author is good at wrong-footing you in this novel and avoiding cliché. A situation where a painter is eclipsed by his assistant could prompt scenes of deception and jealousy. Instead a gentle ceding to recognized talent is allowed and a surprising new camaraderie forms later on. A fast-talking art agent who would be presented as nothing but a caricature in many novels is presented in this story as having a surprisingly intuitive sensitive side. This is the kind of writing that sees the everyday humanity in people and that everyone is just stumbling along, trying to do their best and make something meaningful. There are many compelling different perspectives given throughout the novel on the impact of art both for the artist and the public who consume it … Wood constructs his story carefully so that the past reflects meaningfully upon the present in Elspeth’s journey as an artist. All the while it has tremendous momentum and drive making it compulsively readable … it deals with high concepts about art in a way which is utterly unpretentious and tells a cracking good story at the same time. The ending has left me thinking hard about how we create and commune with art. The Ecliptic is a passionate, invigorating and expertly conceived novel.
Eric Karl Anderson, The Lonesome Reader
Wood is fascinated with creation and what drives it. Is it something apart from the self – a “transmission”? Or does it come firmly from within? And what happens to an artist when she becomes locked within her own process? It’s a terrifying prospect, and one that Wood examines with panache … he has lost none of his ability to combine suspense with striking images … The cut-up narrative is a reflection of the novel’s own system, feeding us hints and suggestions that there is more, if only one can make the connections. Wood’s fiction is playfully experimental, but never loses sight of its primary purpose: to entertain. Philip Womack, Sunday Telegraph
A beautiful book … it’s about the two most unwieldy kinds of alchemy, art and love. The bold intelligence of the voice would have been enough to sustain the book, but it also provides all the pleasures of obsessions, rich detailing of the Sixties world and plot-twists. Katherine Rundell, Sunday Telegraph, Best Books for Summer 2015
A perfect, frighteningly realised tour through the tortured creative mind. Shortlist
Cathy Rentzenbrink, The Bookseller
A rich, intricate and layered work. Observer
One of the most extraordinary novels I've ever read. The final pages of my paperback are smudgy with tears.
Romola Garai (in an interview with New Statesman)
An intelligent examination of creativity, psychology, and a riveting mystery … The novel’s absorbing middle describes Elspeth’s youth in Scotland, her emergence as a painter in 1960s London and treatment for depression … Wood’s visceral accounts of her work are convincing and even reminiscent of scenes from Alasdair Gray’s Lanark ... [Wood is] an energetic stylist and skilful storyteller … this ambitious novel will haunt the imagination long after the final page.
Independent on Sunday
One of the most underrated novels of the year; Wood manages that elusive balance of writing exquisitely while also having a proper good old-fashioned plot complete with twists and turns aplenty. A brilliant book to settle down with and read in one sitting.
Elle, Best Books of 2015
Tremendous stuff, engaging, persuasive and full of life … the pages turn so smoothly – I rattled through its 465 pages in a couple of (bank holi)days – that quibbles flee. Indeed, its craziness is much of its appeal ... All in all The Ecliptic is a satisfying, irresistible novel with that combination of storytelling punch and literary sensibility which can, with luck, be the sign of a big commercial and critical success. I was going to say that it marks Wood out as a writer to watch, but that usually seems to me to be code for “this book isn’t all that good, but the next one might be.” Better instead to say that he’s a writer to read. John Self, The Asylum
With its architectural structure, dramatic pacing, enthralling plot, and lush landscapes, Wood’s novel features beautifully written, meticulously perceived observations about art and artists ... It is unusual and disquieting. Publishers Weekly
Elspeth is such a fully realized character that readers will share her struggles as she labors to regain her artistic vision … In incisive prose, Wood explores how the human mind deals with the arduous work of creating art. A stunning novel, likely to linger long in the reader’s memory. Booklist (starred)
[Wood has] strong passages where he suggests the vital, elusive nature of artistic inspiration—and how a real artist knows when she is working with less. The British novelist makes his aesthetic interests more palatable for a general reader with some intrigue and structural tricks and a kick-in-the-head kicker that would galvanize book clubs.
Wood loops back to tell the story of the tragedies and betrayals that have shaped Elspeth’s artistic spirit, and the importance of the “ecliptic” [...] to her creative imagination. That’s just the beginning of the puzzles he sets forth and solves in this original and suspenseful novel. BBC.com
Captivating … The shifting landscapes are the first of many disorientations that Wood sets up for his reader in this haunting narrative. Plot lines unravel; characters appear and disappear — the minute you think you’ve pinned them down, they turn out to be changelings ... From the very start Elspeth’s magnetic voice draws us into this space where time stands still, with elliptical sentences and vague references to the present day. Wood is very deft at establishing a sense of timelessness on the island … When it comes, detail is very evocative in its subtlety: Wood is very good at painting artistic death-drive through the artists at the sanctuary … This is a novel in which the novelist is always more than a few steps ahead of the reader … Elspeth’s narrative carries the reader effortlessly from Heybeliada to Scotland to London to New York and back to Heybeliada again. Her cadence goads you on to the next sentence, makes you loath to put down the book and break the melody. The Millions
Breathtaking is a weighty word to describe a novel, but Benjamin Wood's The Ecliptic merits such an adjective … There is no doubt that [Wood] possesses a vivid imagination, but it is his exploration into the catacombs and crevasses — the self-doubt and neurosis of an artist's mind — that makes the novel so captivating. After a series of labyrinth-like twists, turns, and dead ends, there is nothing left to do but surrender to the story. Interview
Wood has an ace up his narrative sleeve that pushes the novel into uncanny territory — namely, an island off the coast of Turkey, where suffering artists (a whole colony of them!) are sent by their sponsors in order to recapture their wayward muse … The enchanted reader of Wood’s novel cannot help feeling that if Elspeth Conroy had only put as much painstaking artfulness into her painting as she has given to writing her own life, she could have been another Picasso. Bookpage
Wood creates a foundational narrative and then turns it inside out in a feat of recontextualizing that may leave readers reeling. The novel combines a historic feeling of artistic possibility reminiscent of Joyce Carey’s The Horse’s Mouth with an experience of waking up from a tragic hallucinatory dream. Highly recommended.
Library Journal (starred)
Wood sows his novel with enigmas, conspiracies and coincidences ... What makes The Ecliptic worth reading is Wood’s contemplation of the sources of artistic inspiration ... in this novel art is the lure that drives people closer to death’s embrace. Wall Street Journal
In novels about art it is often the art which is missing. That is not the case here. The description of detail and aesthetic effect -- the language of gesture, composition, and perception -- is a challenge Wood overcomes. Likewise, Wood’s phrasing and, yes, painterly description of Conroy’s environment … The Ecliptic is an intricate, ambitious, and compelling novel of creativity, ambiguity, instability, and the nature of representation ... Wood’s handling of the dialogue between art, life, and the artworld is superbly realised, with resonances building throughout the novel. Moreover, the characterisation of Elspeth Conroy is, for the most part, spot-on: her anxieties, false-starts, resistance to the commercial, her youthfulness, and response to success all ring true and underpin the abstract concerns of the novel. All in all, The Ecliptic is a very good novel and comes highly recommended. Alan Bowden, Words of Mercury