How Saints Die
by Carmen Marcus

How Saints Die by Carmen Marcus

Harvill Secker

Ellie Fleck has a question for everything – but there is one she cannot ask. Where have they taken her mother?

Ten years old and irrepressibly curious, Ellie lives with her fisherman father on the wild North Yorkshire coast. It’s the 1980s and her mother’s breakdown is discussed only in whispers, with the promise ‘better by Christmas’ and no further explanation.

Steering by the light of her dad’s sea-myths, her mum’s memories of home across the water, and a fierce spirit all her own, Ellie begins to learn – in these sudden, strange circumstances – who she is and what she can become. By the time the first snowdrops show, her innocence has been shed, but at great cost.

Praise from the Desmond Elliott Prize

“‘There was once a Fleck. There was once a mother. There was once a wolf.’ These are ten-year-old Ellie’s key points in the story she plans to write. Ear-catching, enticing as an opening stanza it is equally a refrain, for the power of the spoken word is a major motif in How Saints Die. A novel told by a curious, dreaming girl, of life with a devoted father, Peter, bereft of her mentally ill mother, Kate. Tales of sea monsters, martyred saints and demonic wolves fill up her waking thoughts, slip into the spaces where unanswered questions lie. Ellie’s thoughts, buffeting between fantasy and reality, form a disorderly queue in the mind but go direct to the heart in fabulously vivid, free-verse accompaniment to her days.”

About the Author

Carmen Marcus lives in the Victorian spa town of Saltburn-by-the-Sea. Her writing has been described as ‘crackling dangerously with inherited magic yet achieving contemporary vitality’. She is in much demand as a performance poet and has appeared at the Royal Festival Hall. Recently she has been commissioned by BBC Radio 3’s Verb New Voices. How Saints Die is her first novel, and as a work in progress it won New Writing North’s ‘Northern Promise’ Award.

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