Alan Querry, a successful property developer from the north of England, has two daughters: Vanessa, a philosopher who lives and teaches in Saratoga Springs, NY, and Helen, a record company executive based in London. The sisters never quite recovered from their parents' bitter divorce and the early death of their mother, with Vanessa particularly affected, and plagued by bouts of depression since her teenage years. When she suffers a new crisis, Alan and Helen travel to Saratoga Springs. Over the course of six wintry days in upstate New York, the Querry family begins to struggle with the questions that animate this profound and searching novel: Why do some people find living so much harder than others? Is happiness a skill that can be learned, or a lucky accident of birth? Is reflection helpful to happiness or an obstacle to it? If, as a favourite philosopher of Vanessa's puts it, 'the only serious enterprise is living', how should we live? Rich in subtle human insight, full of poignant and often funny portraits, and vivid with a sense of place, Upstate is a perceptive, intensely moving novel.
James Wood has been a staff writer at the
New Yorker since 2007. In 2009, he won the National Magazine Award for reviews and criticism. He was the chief literary critic at the
Guardian from 1992 to 1995, and a book critic at the
New Republic from 1995 to 2007. He has published a number of books with Cape, including
How Fiction Works, which has been translated into thirteen languages.