Bolt from the Blue

Jeremy Cooper

French paperback with flaps, 272 pages
Published 27 January 2021

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In Bolt from the Blue, Jeremy Cooper, the winner of the 2018 Fitzcarraldo Editions Novel Prize, charts the relationship between a mother and daughter over the course of thirty-odd years. In October 1985, Lynn moves down to London to enrol at Saint Martin’s School of Art, leaving her mother behind in a suburb of Birmingham. Their relationship is complicated, and their primary form of contact is through the letters, postcards and emails they send each other periodically, while Lynn slowly makes her mark on the London art scene. A novel in epistolary form, Bolt from the Blue captures the waxing and waning of the mother-daughter relationship over time, achieving a rare depth of feeling with a deceptively simple literary form.

‘A novel written in epistolary form, Cooper has maximised the potential of this literary convention to achieve a work of great depth and quiet power. Over three decades, a mother and her artist daughter communicate only by letters, excavating their relationship as it evolves with melancholic, astute precision. At times spellbinding and mesmerising, the work also proves provocative and inspirational. As much a love letter to the lost art of letter-writing as it is a thirty year-long dialogue of familial love, Cooper has produced an understated book that nonetheless resonates powerfully. This book is deeply sensitive to the ebb and flow of relationships over time and the way love is disguised, expressed and experienced, and it achieves that elusive dream of all authors and finds new meaning in the recording of life.’
Helen Cullen, Irish Times

Bolt from the Blue is a venturesome, epistolary fiction spanning over 30 years.’
Catherine Taylor, Financial Times

‘A novel in epistolary form, the writer and art historian’s latest work is both an intimate account of a mother-daughter relationship and a lively history of London’s art scene. It is October 1985 when Lynn moves to the capital to study at Saint Martin’s, later making a successful career as an artist. She and her mother, who is back at home in Birmingham, begin a 30-year-long written relationship – via letters, postcards and emails. Their contact is irregular, and by turns affectionate and combative, making the relationship feel engrossing, deep and utterly true.’
New Statesman

‘The chief pleasures of the novel, for me, were its gentleness and light, skipping pace. Cooper casts human flaws as tender foibles, and moves the reader along quickly through the years, all while exploring large themes of familial estrangement, class division, ruthlessness, and loneliness. And there is no heavy, lyrical prose here. These themes come in unspoken hints, buried within chatty updates and loaded postcard choices…. Despite its arty conceptual trapping, Bolt from the Blue has the texture of actual personal relations. As a result the mother-daughter relationship feels frustrating, understandable, funny, tragic, and very close to real.’
Suki Ferguson, Mechanics’ Institute Review

‘Layers upon layers of “fictioning” make Bolt from the Blue a nuanced and beautifully textured novel. Cooper’s text takes on a mercurial uncertainty, blurring the boundaries between author and subject, person and persona, and truth and falsehood. Versions of people and narratives emerge and re-emerge, coming together to present an incomplete image of how a relationship unfolds through time.’
Anna Souter, Burlington Contemporary

‘The book becomes deeply intimate thanks to the two women’s distinctive voices and the effect of three decades upon their dynamic. The result is a memorable portrait of difficult love, and a captivating tour of the London art scene.’
Publishers Weekly

‘Cooper has carefully crafted Bolt from the Blue, in all its slipperiness, so that we are looking for answers and explanations, even though there might be none. In this way, we are nudged into a mode of intense, pleasurable close reading, one that the novel frustrates and at the same time rewards.’
Sophie Haigney, The Nation

‘Jeremy Cooper’s work is consistently haunting and layered, built on a refreshing trust in the reader to delve deeper behind the quiet insinuations of his prose. His work resists every modern accelerant, creating a patient and precise tonic. He is easily one of the most thoughtful British fiction writers working today.’
— Adam Scovell, author of How Pale the Winter Has Made Us

Bolt from the Blue is a scintillating, wistful exploration of a good career and a poor relationship. Pithy yet expansive, it’s an essential, engrossing, illuminating read for any aspiring artist.’
— Sara Baume, author of Handiwork

‘There’s a strange magic to Jeremy Cooper’s writing. The way he puts words together creates an incantatory effect. Reading him is to be spellbound, then. I have no idea how he does it, only that I am seduced.’
— Ben Myers, author of The Offing

‘For a book that has the word “love” on almost every page, Bolt from the Blue is endlessly inventive in showing us how love is often hidden, rationed, coded and disguised. It is an epistolary dialogue between a life of possibilities – as shown through the maturing vision of an artist – and one of disappointments, expressed through the wise and seasoned scepticism of the artist’s mother. Jeremy Cooper is a deft and sensitive writer who understands how to entrust his book to his characters.’
— Ronan Hession, author of Leonard and Hungry Paul

Praise for Ash before Oak

‘Low-key and understated, this beautiful book … is a civilised and melancholy document that slowly progresses towards a sense of enduring, going onwards, and even new life. It feels like a healing experience.’
— Phil Baker, The Sunday Times

‘A study in how writing can give lives meaning, and in how it can fail to be enough to keep one afloat, this is a rare, delicate book, teeming with the stuff of real life.’
— Publishers Weekly, starred review

Jeremy Cooper is a writer and art historian, author of six previous novels and several works of non-fiction, including the standard work on nineteenth century furniture, studies of young British artists in the 1990s, and, in 2019, the British Museum’s catalogue of artists’ postcards. Early on he appeared in the first twenty-four of BBC’s Antiques Roadshow and, in 2018, won the first Fitzcarraldo Editions Novel Prize for Ash before Oak.