Margot Livesey

official website


  • August 2020
  • HarperCollins (USA); Hoddard & Stoughton (UK)
  • Hardcover, Paperback, Audio, Kindle, iBook
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The Boy in the Field

One September afternoon in 1999, teenagers Matthew, Zoe, and Duncan Lang are walking home from school when they discover a boy lying in a field, bloody and unconscious. Thanks to their intervention, the boy's life is saved. In the aftermath, all three siblings are irrevocably changed.

Matthew, the oldest, becomes obsessed with tracking down the assailant, secretly searching the local town with the victim's brother. Zoe wanders the streets of Oxford, looking at men, and one of them, a visiting American graduate student, returns her gaze. Duncan, the youngest, who has seldom thought about being adopted, suddenly decides he wants to find his birth mother. Overshadowing all three is the awareness that something is amiss in their parents' marriage. Over the course of the autumn, as each of the siblings confronts the complications and contradictions of their approaching adulthood, they find themselves at once drawn together and driven apart.

Written with the deceptive simplicity and power of a fable, The Boy in the Field showcases Margot Livesey's unmatched ability to "tell her tale masterfully, with intelligence, tenderness, and a shrewd understanding of all our mercurial human impulses" (Lily King, author of Writers & Lovers).

Praise for The Boy in the Field

"Exquisite... Livesey's writing is quiet, observant and beautifully efficient—there's not an extra word or scene in the entire book—and yet simultaneously so cinematic, you can hear the orchestral soundtrack as you tear through the pages." The New York Times

"The kind of book you ration yourself reading because you don’t want to get to the end. A gripping, beautifully written novel showing the light and shade of modern family life." Daily Mail (UK)

"An expertly crafted novel of family (and one almost magically good dog) filled with dazzling insights and beauty." People, Book of the Week

"The Boy in the Field is a literary mystery novel... Just not the kind that focuses on what happens on a patch of land, a highway, or even a country. Instead, it examines the mysteries of our minds and what they will do when called upon to keep our hearts safe." New York Journal of Books

"Powerfully affecting." Kirkus, starred review

"Every character rings true; every observation and reaction feels real. Braiding three separate views of the same incident, Livesey weaves a masterful tapestry of emotion and action focused on the indelible impact of random events." Booklist, starred review

"A distinctive blend of literary fiction and psychological thriller.... Precise prose, cool observation, and tight pacing will keep readers turning the pages. This is a memorable twist on the coming-of-age tale." Publishers Weekly

"[A] luminous tale... Livesey's language is crystalline-clear and immersive, replete with vibrant imagery and echoes... Ultimately what keeps Livesey's novel aloft is that it is full of kindnesses." Daneet Steffens for The Boston Globe

"Margot Livesey is a literary pointillist whose prose is both impressionistic and as precise as a geometry equation... Tiny piece by tiny piece, Livesey builds an intimate universe that expands and expands 'until it grows large enough, almost, to keep everything else at bay.'" O The Oprah Magazine

"[A] stunning novel of tenderness, interconnectedness, cause and effect... The Boy in the Field is a coming-of-age story, a mystery, a sharp-eyed examination of individual lives and relationships. Despite the violent crime related to its title and the insecurities that arise for various characters along the way, this brilliant novel offers a sense of beauty and safety in its quiet ruminations." Shelf Awareness

"Written in elegant, spare prose, this story flies swiftly forward from the transfixing opening pages. A charming, complicated family dynamic, a twist of eerie magic." Tessa Hadley, author of The Master Bedroom

"I loved every single sentence of The Boy in the Field. This novel is so intricately woven, its world so vibrantly built, its characters so beautifully and empathically wrought. To experience the world as rendered by Margot Livesey is a singular, extraordinary delight." Claire Lombardo, author of The Most Fun We Ever Had

"How lucky the world is that Margot Livesey has turned her usual keen and sympathetic writer’s eye to the Lang children as they struggle to make sense of a terrible crime and the sensitive, mysterious young victim who suffers in the aftermath. From its taut and frightening opening chapter to its final, mournful pages, The Boy in the Field is a tender, deeply humane exploration of family, philosophy, and what it means to grow up, to keep secrets, to care for one another, and most importantly, what it means to hold another’s heart in yours, always, with tenderness and mercy." Elizabeth Wetmore, author of Valentine

"Margot Livesey has the unique ability to find the hidden darkness beneath the surface of our lives, no matter how deeply buried. A deceptively simple story that explores the aftermath of a moment of violence, The Boy in the Field amazed me with its insight, and the subtlety of Livesey's beautiful, almost dreamlike prose. She speaks of a sensation—"quick as a mousetrap, sharp as a thorn"—and I can't think of a better description of her work. Quick and sharp." Kevin Wilson, author of Nothing to See Here