October 22, 2010 · 9781931520706 · trade cloth/ebook
FROM A WARTIME BROTHEL to the intricate high society of 1870s Brussels, Under the Poppy is a breakout novel of childhood friends, a love triangle, puppet masters, and reluctant spies.
Under the Poppy is a brothel owned by Decca and Rupert. Decca is in love with Rupert but he in turn is in love with her brother, Istvan. When Istvan comes to town, louche puppet troupe in tow, the lines of their age-old desires intersect against a backdrop of approaching war.
Hearts are broken when old betrayals and new alliances—not just their own—take shape, as the townsmen seek refuge from the onslaught of history by watching the girls of the Poppy cavort onstage with Istvan’s naughty puppets.
With the war getting too close, Istvan and Rupert abandon the Poppy and find a place in high society where they try to avoid becoming more than puppets themselves in the hands of those they have helped before and who now want to use them again.
Under the Poppy is a vivid, sexy historical novel as delicious and intoxicating as the best guilty pleasure.
“Despite all the trappings of puppets, sex shows, stabbings, and drawing-room treachery, this is a love story about how, sometimes despite themselves, Rupert, Istvan, and their friends have created a family. . . . she creates an atmospheric tale for those who like their historical fiction on the dark and lurid side. Those readers who enjoyed Emma Donoghue’s Slammerkin or Sarah Water’s Fingersmith will find similar themes.”
“A page turner with riveting language and close attention to sensory detail. Set in late 19th-century Brussels, the story follows the adventures of puppeteer Istvan and brothel owner Rupert who bond as friends and lovers.”
“This book made me drunk. Koja’s language is at its poetic best and the epic drama had me digging my nails into my palms.”
—Cory Doctorow (Little Brother)
“The brothel of Kathe Koja’s Under the Poppy requires no time and space coordinates. It is a fictional universe unto itself—rich and bawdy and violent and sad, with a beating human heart underneath. I love Koja’s daring and flair.”
— Louis Bayard (The Black Tower)
Kathe Koja’s books include The Cipher, Skin, and Extremities; YA novels include Buddha Boy, Talk, Kissing the Bee, and Headlong. Her work has been honored by the ALA, the ASPCA, the Parents’ Choice Award, and the Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel. Her books have been published in seven languages, and optioned for film. She’s a Detroit native and lives in the area with her husband, artist Rick Lieder, and their cats. Under the Poppy is currently being adapted for the stage and will debut in 2011.
High praise for Kathe Koja’s previous books:
Kissing the Bee
“Incorporates facts and folklore about bees in this spare and haunting novel….Her understated, tightly focused language evokes vivid scenes and heady emotions…each line of dialogue, each interaction illuminating struggles that readers face as well.”
—Publisher’s Weekly, starred review
“Readers will find it hard to pry themselves away from this brilliantly written story . . . A must read for young romantics.”
—International Reading Association
“Poetic, realistic, and filled with memorable characters, this spare novel captures first love’s exquisite, earth-shattering joy and the struggle and thrill that come with claiming one’s own life.”
—Booklist, starred review
“[The] interplay of Dana and her own feelings drive the story, and her burgeoning relationship with Emil has an understated passion that will satisfy diehard romantic readers.”
“Koja has once again created a rich psychological drama whose characters will not be easily forgotten….The crystal-clear narrative voices of Hilly and Ivan create a constant dual perspective that, along with Hilly’s stories and decoy journals, raise fascinating questions about the complex layers of truth and identity that can exist within a single person or story.”
—The Horn Book