A novel about three women at turning points in their lives, and the one night that changes everything.
One night, three women go to the theater to see a play. Wildfires are burning in the hills outside, but inside the theater it is time for the performance to take over.
Margot is a successful, flinty professor on the cusp of retirement, distracted by her fraught relationship with her adult son and her ailing husband. After a traumatic past, Ivy is is now a philanthropist with a seemingly perfect life. Summer is a young drama student, an usher at the theater, and frantically worried for her girlfriend whose parents live in the fire zone.
While the performance unfolds on stage, so does the compelling trajectory that will bring these three women together, changing them all. Deliciously intimate and yet emotionally wide-ranging, The Performance is a novel that both explores the inner lives of women as it underscores the power of art and memory to transform us.
About the Author
Claire Thomas is an award-winning writer from Melbourne, Australia. She has a PhD from the University of Melbourne, where she has taught for many years.
Praise for The Performance
“In this novel, the project of living is rendered with compassionate clarity. For the duration of The Performance, we can acknowledge the extent of our overwhelming burden, without looking away." -- Chloe Benjamin, The New York Times
"Engaging and evocative…. Thomas’s imitation of wandering minds is flawless and yet entirely comprehensible. Without drifting into stream of consciousness, she nonetheless reproduces that vast galaxy of thoughts that revolves around the dark matter of anxiety at the center of each life.... I have never been invited into the minds of people sitting through an entire play: It feels oddly intimate." -- Ron Charles, The Washington Post
"An acclaimed Australian writer spins an alluring play within a play, probing the ways we perform for each other, how our best selves are mere costumes we shed before curtain call.” -- O, the Oprah magazine, Best Books of March
“This creative novel not only examines the power art has to bring people together, but it also explores the rich interior lives of three very different women as their lives intertwine over the course of a single night out.” -- Popsugar
"Deliciously intimate and yet emotionally wide-ranging, The Performance is a novel that both explores the inner lives of women as it underscores the power of art and memory to transform us.” -- LGBTQ Reads
"A moving, intimate novel looking at the lives of women and what we perform everyday." -- Hey Alma
“Thomas portrays three generations of women—anxious, resolute, uncertain—who emerge as indelible avatars for the human condition in times of crisis. Their regrets and recriminations, promises of improvement, and plans for atonement all play out within a finely wrought framework. Plumbing themes of intimacy, ambition, grief, and longing with a clarity that is both universal and precise, Thomas’ slim novel offers a rich source for book groups and all contemplative readers.” -- Booklist (starred review)
"Thomas sensitively and intricately pieces together the trio's individual histories and psyches and larger issues while refracting lines from Beckett's play into their thoughts…An intimate, compassionate, and unusual novel." -- Kirkus
"Incisive... [F]ollows three women of different generations and backgrounds as they separately attend a performance of Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days in Melbourne… their respective anxieties about climate change, the confines of womanhood, and love and loss intersect magnificently throughout... This richly rendered and perceptive meditation on motherhood, memory, and the challenges of living through frightful times will hold readers spellbound.” -- Publishers Weekly
"A work of great elegance and precision, a sharp yet achingly tender contemplation of women's hearts and minds. Thomas employs the stage to dazzling effect, calling into question the way we participate in our own lives and the lives of other people. Frequently funny, often profound, The Performance is an unmissable show." -- Emma Stonex, author of The Lamplighters
"I loved the whole idea of this book: that while the most extraordinary life happens onstage, three relatively ordinary women in the theatre's audience consider their most intimate fears and desires. Thomas writes these women with such wisdom and compassion, that by the end we are all transformed." -- Claire Fuller, author of Bitter Orange
"Restrained and adventurous at once, The Performance is a cool, potent meditation on the private intensity of women’s lives. An enigmatic, elegant and assured novel that explores the power of art in revealing us to ourselves." -- Charlotte Wood, author of The Weekend