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Erik Satie – composer, dandy, eccentric – is dead. Told to select one memory to take with him into the afterlife, he finds himself in limbo with a community of the deceased, looking back at his fifty-nine years for their most precious moments. Evenings of absinthe at the Chat Noir? Friendships with Debussy, Duchamp and Man Ray? What of his great musical triumphs and disasters? How will he choose his own legacy before silent whiteness descends?
Venice, 1511. In the convent of Sant’ Alvise, Oliva is about to take the veil and become a bride of Christ. When her world is shaken – first, literally, by an earthquake, and then, spiritually, by forces that threaten to change the convent for ever – she begins to ask questions about her faith and her future. When she agrees to sit for Signor Avílo, the renowned portrait painter, he brings with him a diabolical object: a mirror. And reflections can be dangerous.
Told with playful elegance, these are two utterly original tales of art and devotion, of religious and creative fervour. They contemplate the eternal in different ways – one examining a life only just beginning, tentatively; the other a life lived without compromise as it reaches its close.
‘Skinner’s writing is beautiful, striking and precise. [These] are fascinating, playful novellas. I loved them.’
‘The story trickles out daintily at first before building to a torrent; Skinner’s elegant prose is restrained and increasingly hypnotic. These two narratives are linked by one eternal question: why are we here?’
‘Lovingly researched and beautifully imagined.'
‘The Velvet Gentleman is a most elegantly playful story of Erik Satie in not-quite-the afterlife (you have to read it) which entertains and ends too soon. The Mirror, the other novella, beguiles and seduces with its febrile convent atmosphere.’
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