Under the Poppy

Kathe Koja  - published September 2012

October 26, 2010 · 9781931520706 · trade cloth / 9781931520881 · ebook
September 2012 · 9781618730275 · trade paperback

Now available in paperback.

Gaylactic Spectrum Award winner (see the award here.)
Longlisted for the IMPAC Award.

Under the Poppy: Farewell Performance from Under the Poppy on Vimeo.

The Mercury Waltz trailer.

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.

Kathe Koja on The Big Idea behind the novel:

The theatre is the locus of ultimate fiction: the one place on earth where normal everyday people, people you might run into at the café or the grocery store, people you might even know (their names, their fears and loves, the way they toss their underwear not quite into the damn hamper)—people like you, in fact—become indisputably someone else, someone completely different, right before your very eyes.  Change the lights, put on a mask, and voila: instant strange.Read More

Read interviews with the author: Detroit Free Press · BookPage · Friskibiskit · The Outer Alliance · Pride Source

Read an excerpt on Scribd (embedded below).

“Koja can pack a lot Dickensian humor into a sentence . . . [she] takes a page from Victorian lit in her writerliness, and she reveals human nature like someone slipped her the manual.”
Cleveland Plain Dealer

“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. It’s like a Tom Waits hurdy-gurdy loser’s lament come to life, as sinister as a dark circus.”
—Cory Doctorow, BoingBoing

Under the Poppy is unlike anything I’ve ever read, a world unto itself, spun out of fevered, sensual prose and vivid, compelling characters.”
—Lewis Shiner

“Koja has a ventriloquist’s skill when it comes to inhabiting the voices of her characters . . . A gothic, glam-rock take on love and sex and death that reads a little like what would happen if Sarah Waters and Angela Carter played a drunken game of Exquisite Corpse in a brothel, Under the Poppy will make you want to get out your very finest crushed velvet, drink a couple bottles of wine, and do something a little bit illegal with someone very good-looking. In other words, it’s a winner.”
Tor.com

“All the elements of a great novel are present in Koja’s work: from suspense and intrigue to undying love and toxic jealousies, this highly developed read is brimming with imaginative flair and originality.”
Lambda Literary

“This book is different, magical, seductive, and strange. However, there are books to which “Poppy” has ties, however wispy: think The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera mixed with The Piano Teacher by Elfriede Jelinek lightened with Fanny Hill by John Cleland and layered with The Satanic Verses, A Passage to India, and Mrs. Dalloway.”
—Bethanne Patrick, Beyond the Margins

“People will probably love this book or hate it–possibly both. But let me just say that it would take an author of extraordinary talent to open with a scene of a woman being sodomized by a ventriloquist’s dummy and make me want to keep reading.
“And Kathe Koja is that talented. Five stars.”
Speak Its Name

“The velvet and brocade, the rips and tears, the music and theater, you see it all as you read about what the denizens of the Poppy do to stay in business, stay ahead of the tide, stay alive.”
—Colleen Mondor, Chasing Ray

“Frequently changing viewpoints and fluid segues in and out of flashback illuminate actions readers have already witnessed. Part of the fun is heading into the past after knowing the future; even when you know where the story will go, you wonder what will happen next.”
Ann Arbor Observer

“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)

“I loved Under the Poppy. It pours like chocolate—laced with brandy; sexy and utterly compelling!”
—Ellen Kushner (Swordspoint)

“Throughout the story there is an undercurrent of darkness. I can think of no better way than this to describe it and it keeps you reading, pulls you on and on through the narrative. Tied into this sense of the creeping grotesque is the fact that Koja is skilled at depicting how close to insanity art can come. I have fond memories of the mad genius of Skin—how far Koja was willing to push her story and her characters for the sake of their art and there is a similar feeling here. Istvan is driven and he cannot be anything other than what he is—a player, an actor and puppeteer. At the same time, he is drawn to Rupert and Rupert to him. Their relationship is painfully real—nothing is perfect or sugar-coated. They hurt each other, they try to mend their rifts, attempt forgiveness and do their best to accept the other as they are. It’s superbly done.”
Girl on Book Action

“I can highly recommend this novel to everybody who likes historical fiction and wants to read a bit different kind of a story. It can also be recommended to speculative fiction readers and readers who love literary novels. This novel will appeal to everybody, who’s willing to immerse himself/herself in a dark, erotic and entertaining story.”
Rising Shadow

“Few books I’ve read about the theater capture its dazzle as luminously as this one does. The performances are integral to the plotline; one cares about the performances because one cares about the characters, and one cares about the characters in part because of how they perform. Intelligent descriptions and a compelling cast make reading Poppy an intense, lingering experience…. Each section was a burst of images. I wanted to read it as slowly as I might eat a rich meal—savoring each bite before taking another.”
—Rachel Swirsky, Cascadia Subduction Zone

“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.”
Library Journal

“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.”
Publishers Weekly

BoingBoing Gift Guide.

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.

Reviews and 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.”
—VOYA

Going Under

“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

Kathe Koja, Under The Poppy Excerpt

Comments

7 Responses to “Under the Poppy”

  1. Under the Poppy » Blog Archive » Preorder! on May 7th, 2010 7:44 am

    [...] Beer has parted the curtains and is ready for your preorders here: so roll up, ladies and gentlemen, for the novel: paper, ebook, take your seats for the show [...]

  2. The Outer Alliance » Outer Alliance SPotlight #53: Kathe Koja on October 22nd, 2010 10:58 am

    [...] Welcome to Outer Alliance Spotlight #53. The Spotlight features news about (and sometimes interviews with) allies who are active in supporting and celebrating LGBTQI speculative fiction. Our guest this week is Kathe Koja, author of Under the Poppy. [...]

  3. all hail kathe koja! « Clive Hicks-Jenkins' Artlog: on November 7th, 2010 2:53 am

    [...] puppets, honed and polished throughout the creation of her just-published novel, Under the Poppy (Small Beer Press) the setting for which is a Victorian brothel where puppets are a significant presence. For over [...]

  4. The Outer Alliance » The 2011 Gaylactic Spectrum Awards Have Been Announced! on November 30th, 2011 12:00 pm

    [...] This year’s Best Novel winner is Under the Poppy by Kathe Koja! You can read more about Kathe and this Spectrum winning novel in Outer Alliance Spotlight #53. It involves love, war, and puppets, plus it’s got a really interesting structure and voice. Kirstyn and Ian gave it a a rave review on episode #5 of The Writer and the Critic, and the Spectrum judges say, “… the novel engages the reader from the start, provides a way to taste and smell the world through brilliantly-crafted prose, and presents a heart-wrenching romance.” You can buy Under the Poppy from Small Beer Press. [...]

  5. women in horror: kathe koja « in the pines on February 25th, 2012 10:54 am

    [...] beyond and in between. These days she mostly writes YA, which I’m sure is excellent, and a couple of years ago a non-horror adult novel, Under the Poppy, published by the delightful Small B…. It seems only right, honestly, that she’s moved away from these sustained journeys into [...]

  6. Under the Poppy | ‘An Interlude of the Road’ … your copy awaits on August 29th, 2012 3:12 pm

    [...] of the paperback edition of Under the Poppy,  due out on 9/10 (and available now for preorder from Small Beer Press, B&N and Amazon, among others), I’m offering a PDF of never-before-published Poppy [...]

  7. New Arrivals! « Leeswammes' Blog on August 30th, 2012 5:11 am

    [...] the publisher’s website: “FROM A WARTIME BROTHEL to the intricate high society of 1870s Brussels, Under the [...]

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