Mary Novik


Conceit by Mary NovikSet against the vivid backdrop of seventeenth-century England, this audacious debut novel about the power and consequences of passion will justifiably invite comparisons to the works of Philippa Gregory, Sarah Dunant, A.S. Byatt, and Tracy Chevalier.

Opening with a spectacular scene in the midst of the flames and fury of the Great Fire of 1666, Conceit is a sensually explosive evocation of Elizabeth I’s England and the teeming, bawdy streets of London, and a compelling take on obsessive love and the unpredictable workings of the human heart.

Pegge Donne is still a rebellious girl, already too clever for a world that values learning only in men, when her father, the famous love poet John Donne, begins arranging marriages for his five daughters—including Pegge.

Pegge, however, is desperate to experience the all-consuming passion that led to her parents' clandestine marriage, notorious throughout England for shattering social convention and giving rise to some of the age’s most erotic and profound poetry. She attempts to seduce Donne’s friend, Izaak Walton—a man in love with her older sister – and tries, in ways that push the boundaries of daughterly behaviour, to draw the secret of love out of her father during his final days. Even when she ultimately marries, Pegge cannot suppress her independence or her desire to taste the passion that inspired some of the world’s greatest poetry of love and physical longing.

Exquisitely written, Conceit is a timeless story—dazzling, seductive, elegant, and richly satisfying.

Praise for Mary Novik’s Conceit:

Winner of the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize 2008
Longlisted for The Giller Prize 2007
A Globe and Mail Best Book
A Quill & Quire Book of the Year
A Top 40 Essential Canadian Novel of the Decade, CBC Canada Reads

“Novik’s extraordinary debut novel Conceit  . . . is as delightful as Virginia Woolf’s Orlando and as erudite and readable as A.S. Byatt’s Possession.” —Quill & Quire, starred review

“A magnificent novel of 17th-century London. . . . Conceit is a mind-expanding creation of a distant world in often-exhilarating detail, seen, heard, felt, smelled and tasted. . . . Reading Conceit is like settling into a multi-course feast that shifts your ideas of food, of the wonders that art can conjure from the staples of life. . . . Buy the book. Find a free weekend and a quiet place. . . . Recall what it means to know a world through the surface of a page, created in the words of a gifted stranger, made uniquely yours by your own storehouse of experience and the mystery of your subconscious.” —The Globe and Mail

“Fans of novels like A.S. Byatt’s Possession and Tracy Chevalier’s Girl With a Pearl Earring will enjoy Novik’s perspective on one of the great figures of English literature.” —Vancouver Sun

 “Few novels truly deserve the description ‘rollicking’ in the way Mary Novik’s Conceit does. A hearty, boiling stew of a novel, served up in rich old-fashioned story-telling. Novik lures her readers into the streets of a bawdy seventeenth-century London with a nudge and a wink and keeps them there with her infectious love of detail and character. A raunchy, hugely entertaining read that will leave you at once satiated and hungry for more.” —Gail Anderson-Dargatz, author of The Cure for Death by Lightning

“In this gorgeous, startling, deeply moving novel about the family of the poet John Donne, the mind is shown to be one of the body’s most erogenous zones. A feast, a pageant, a seduction of words.” —Thomas Wharton, author of Icefields

 “Read Conceit not for its foods and flowers and silks and seductions—though these are here in all their lusty Elizabethan richness—but for its prose. . . . Novik’s writing couples the sacred and the sexy as neatly as Donne’s own.” —Annabel Lyon, author of The Golden Mean

“This exuberant debut is so forcefully imagined, it’s hard to believe it emerged from a New World outpost like Vancouver.” —Vancouver Review


Length: 400 pp
Setting: 17th century London
Period: historical

Canadian rights, Doubleday Canada

For all other rights contact The Cooke Agency.

Mary Novik
Photo credit: Janet Baxter


Mary Novik's debut novel Conceit, about the daughter of the poet John Donne, was hailed as "a magnificent novel of seventeenth-century London" by The Globe and Mail. Chosen as a book of the year by both Quill & Quire and The Globe and Mail, Conceit was long-listed for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and won the Ethel Wilson Prize. Canada Reads named Conceit one of The Top 40 Essential Canadian Novels of the Decade. Mary lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, and is writing a series of novels about minor characters in the lives of great figures of literature

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