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  • Published: 31 March 2020
  • ISBN: 9780143774310
  • Imprint: Random House New Zealand
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 352

The Night of All Souls

Edith Wharton returns: spirited, brilliant, alive.

In this highly entertaining novel, Edith Wharton is variously reimagined: as a host in the afterlife, a historical figure in a modern novella, and as an elusive presence in the pages of her own writing. But when a lifelong secret is exposed, it’s almost too shocking to be true.

Hugely acclaimed during her lifetime, writer Edith Wharton is back — with the most extraordinary opportunity. Summoned to a room in the afterlife, Edith finds the manuscript of a new novella inspired by her life. A letter from her one-time editor advises Edith to consider carefully whether to destroy the work or allow its publication. Is this a chance to correct her image of haughtiness and privilege, and to reignite interest in her writing?

Edith begins reading the novella to her astonished companions; and what unfolds is a cautionary story of online fame. But as she gradually remembers the details of her life, Edith becomes fearful about what the work might reveal and is haunted by the words:

The letters survive, and everything survives.

‘Philippa Swan’s is an original voice that is articulate, humorous and disarmingly refreshing.’ - NZ Books

  • Published: 31 March 2020
  • ISBN: 9780143774310
  • Imprint: Random House New Zealand
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 352

About the author

Philippa Swan

Wellington writer Philippa Swan trained as a landscape architect, with degrees from Otago and Melbourne. Her nonfiction book, Life (and Death) in a Small City Garden, was published in 2001 to critical acclaim. In 2006 her award-winning short story ‘Life Coach’ was selected for the NZ Book Month publication The Six Pack. Another, more recent story was selected for the LitCrawl short story competition. She has been a freelance writer for a number of lifestyle magazines for over 15 years, including a columnist for NZ Gardener and Cuisine magazines.

‘Philippa Swan’s is an original voice that is articulate, humorous and disarmingly refreshing.' - NZ Books

Praise for The Night of All Souls

Philippa Swan’s erudite homage takes a page from Wharton’s unheralded ghost stories: the author is resurrected in an anteroom to the afterlife, and given a novella about a woman who works at the Wharton museum in Massachusetts. Edith must decide whether to publish or burn the work, revisiting her own writing in the process. It may have the trappings of a ghost story, but the most appealing element of Swan’s novel is its submerged literary appreciation of Wharton’s oeuvre, delivered in tandem with lively elements of biography, and shades of the wit and style for which Wharton was renowned.

Cameron Woodhead, Sydney Morning Herald

A highly entertaining read


In this wildly imaginative novel, Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Edith Wharton (1862-1937), long dead, finds herself in a warm, atmospherically lit drawing room, waiting to see who will join her for the evening. . . . Edith is revealed in all her complexity. Not just the suffering wife of a disturbed husband but a passionate lover, intelligent and articulate writer and garden designer, widely travelled and admired by many. The novel is a glimpse into how life goes on after us; the characters are unaware of what the others did and said after their deaths, until events are disclosed to them through the novella and Mrs Gerould's uncanny revelations. The Night of All Souls is a refreshing, absorbing novel. The chance to see one's life after death, to recreate the narrative and see it as a newly rounded thing is a fascinating concept.Edith Wharton is newly minted within these pages, finally broken free of the constraints of the society in which she lived.

Louise Ward, NZ Herald

There’s a story within a story as well, as her former publisher (also long-dead, but don’t ask!) has sent her a novella proposed for publication, which features a modern woman volunteering at Edith’s old home, The Mount in Massachusetts, then visiting Italy in Edith’s footsteps. A most unusual story, if a little slow to establish itself, but worth the effort.

Good Reading Magazine

Discover more

The Night of All Souls launch speech from Harriet Allan

As the launch for The Night of All Souls by Philippa Swan could not go ahead as planned our Fiction Publisher, Harriet Allan, has shared the speech she would have given. 

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