Cursed Bread: A Novel (Hardcover)
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WOMEN'S PRIZE FOR FICTION NOMINEE • An elegant and hypnotic new novel of obsession that centers on the real unsolved mystery of the 1951 mass poisoning of a French village, by the Booker Prize–nominated author of The Water Cure
"Intoxicating, sumptuous, and savage.”—Alexandra Kleeman, acclaimed author of Something New Under the Sun
Still reeling in the aftermath of the deadliest war the world had ever seen, the small town of Pont-Saint-Esprit collectively lost its mind. Some historians believe the mysterious illness and violent hallucinations were caused by spoiled bread; others claim it was the result of covert government testing on the local population.
In that town lived a woman named Elodie. She was the baker’s wife: a plain, unremarkable person who yearned to transcend her dull existence. So when a charismatic new couple arrived in town, the forceful ambassador and his sharp-toothed wife, Violet, Elodie was quickly drawn into their orbit. Thus began a dangerous game of cat and mouse--but who was the predator and on whom did they prey?
Audacious and mesmerizing, Cursed Bread is a fevered confession, an entry into memory’s hall of mirrors, and an erotic fable of transformation. Sophie Mackintosh spins a darkly gleaming tale of a town gripped by hysteria, envy like poison in the blood, and desire that burns and consumes.
About the Author
SOPHIE MACKINTOSH is the author of Blue Ticket and The Water Cure, which won the 2019 Betty Trask Award and was longlisted for the 2018 Man Booker Prize. In 2016 she won the White Review Short Story Prize and the Virago/Stylist short story competition. She has been published in The New York Times, Elle, and Granta, among others.
Named a Most Anticipated Book of the Year by LitHub
"A vivid and visceral account of a postwar French village and its sudden descent into the grip of madness...This novel is a masterclass in observation, of fracturing personalities but also in its tight and nuanced portrait of the rituals and minutiae of small-town life. Afterwards, you’ll want to devour it all over again. 10/10."
—The Independent (UK)
"Intoxicating, sumptuous, and savage, Cursed Bread has a gothic sensibility that is entirely original. In Mackintosh's hands, the strange, compulsive machinations of desire become luminous and ghastly all at once."
—Alexandra Kleeman, author of Something New Under the Sun
"Vivid and shocking, written with stunning, incantatory prose, Cursed Bread is the kind of book that upends your nervous system."
—Julia May Jonas, author of Vladimir
“Cursed Bread floored me in its first page and didn’t let up for the rest of its strange, hot, festering journey. It always feels like a true privilege to be allowed time with Sophie Mackintosh’s brilliant mind and her third novel just confirms that she is only getting better and weirder and wilder. A knockout.”
—Megan Nolan, author of Acts of Desparation
"Her writing is so sleek, the characters mysterious and yet indelible—a taut, seductive, thrilling gem of a novel."
—Olivia Sudjic, author of Sympathy and Asylum Road
"Cursed Bread is a gorgeously atmospheric and feverishly compulsive novel about amorphous longings and desires, and the hot shame of wanting more than you deserve."
—Lara Williams, author of Supper Club and The Odyssey
"Sensuous and haunted, like Madame Bovary reworked as a ghost story—an incredible book about desire, pleasure, beauty. Sophie's fiction always has a gauzy quality, filled with strange, languid images, which rise to a narrative crescendo like clues in a detective novel. She makes it look effortless."
—Jo Hamya, author of Three Rooms
"The thing I love most about this book is that even if you know the plot, there’s no way to anticipate how Sophie Mackintosh handles the narrative. The sentences here are pristine, the structure is on point, the entire novel unravels into the grotesque in an ending that is visceral & wild. She’s a master. You won’t be disappointed. But then again, with Sophie’s books, you never are."
—Sarah Rose Etter, author of The Book of X
"Sophie Mackintosh takes a true story and asks what any of us really know about what is true? Our desires poison us. Shame and longing intertwine. We hide even from ourselves...This novel is subtle and devouring; reading it is like being slowly swallowed by the night."
—Rowan Hisayo Buchanan, author of Starling Days
"Everything Sophie Mackintosh is so febrile and tactile, when you read her books you feel as if you live in them. The world felt so eerie after finishing Cursed Bread. I didn't feel quite the same as I was before, but in the best way."
—Annie Lord, author of Notes on Heartbreak
"Bloody, sexy, sinister, strange. This book will take hold of you."
—Saba Sams, author of Send Nudes
"Cursed Bread is a quietly rich maturation of Mackintosh’s skill… [she] has entered a brilliant new stage of writing."
—Jo Hamya, The Guardian
"With Cursed Bread, the Welsh author shows that she is not just adept at imagining disturbingly close futures, but a playful interpreter of historic events… I could have so much more of Sophie Mackintosh’s stunning writing."
—The i Review
"Mackintosh’s top-notch phrase- making and knack for forming uncanny images generate a baleful atmosphere of lust and dread in this splendidly peculiar tale."
"Mackintosh… makes a particular virtue of unreliable storytelling in this shimmering fever-dream of a novel, teasing the reader with the fine lines between delusion, fantasy and boredom, while finding a fresh narrative framework for the relationship between monotonous small-town life and repressed female desire."
"Cursed Bread… peels away the surface of reality and offers us something stranger and more vivid… Mackintosh’s prose is eerie but minimalist – dreamlike yet grounded. Her style elevates plot to the status of fable or allegory without resorting to straightforward metaphor. This a story shrouded in mist, thick with meaning."
"By choosing a historical mystery from 1951 as the setting for her third novel, Sophie Mackintosh has given her strange and intriguing imagination the opportunity to flourish. There is tension on every page."