Kirsten Tranter
  • The Legacy

The Legacy

I fell into a dream that was all about escaping on a boat across a river. The island city dropped away behind me. I felt a joyful sense of freedom until I saw the man at the stern of the ferry, his hand held out for payment. Then I knew that the river we were crossing was the one no-one ever crossed back from, and I grasped his outstretched hand in supplication. He smiled at me, a cruel smile I knew well, and coins fell down around me, welling up around my knees, golden in the shadows.

The Legacy is Kirsten’s first novel, nominated as one of the best debut fiction books of 2010 by Kirkus Review, one of the best Australian novels in the Sun-Herald, and one of the Best Books of 2010 by Australian Book Review. It was published by Harper Collins Australia and Atria in the US in 2010, and by Quercus in the UK in 2011. The Legacy was shortlisted for the ALS Gold Medal, the ABIA Literary Fiction award, the Indie Debut Fiction award, and longlisted for the Miles Franklin award.

The Legacy is a literary mystery set in Sydney and New York. Julia, a student at Sydney University, is struggling with her unrequited love for her best friend, Ralph, when his recently orphaned cousin Ingrid is taken into his household. Ralph falls unhappily in love with beautiful Ingrid, but she leaves for New York after she comes into a large inheritance and marries the charismatic but sinister Gil Grey, an art dealer and father to child art prodigy Fleur. On September 11 she has an appointment downtown and is never seen again.

In August 2002 Julia travels to New York at Ralph’s request to search for answers about Ingrid’s life there. She gets to know some of Ingrid’s former student colleagues from Columbia, where Ingrid was researching ancient curse scrolls: Trinh works as a dominatrix to support her studies, and knows more about Ingrid’s secrets than first appears; Richard earns a living as a graphologist, analyzing people’s personalities from the hidden clues in their handwriting. Julia finds herself drawn to him, but instead embarks on a secret affair with the handsome Professor Jones, Ingrid’s former supervisor.

Julia gleans more disturbing hints about the possible truth the longer she spends in New York, and suspects that Ingrid’s disappearance may be related to the mystery surrounding Fleur’s art. Evidence that Ingrid might have been blackmailing Grey revives Richard’s belief that she was murdered, and Julia is more driven than ever to know what actually happened, yet deeply conflicted about what she begins to uncover. The Legacy reshapes elements of Henry James’ novel Portrait of a Lady into a contemporary meditation on friendship, love, loss and redemption.

Bookseller + Publisher calls The Legacy “a satisfying mystery… sophisticated and rich.”

praise for The Legacy:

“Tranter makes her splendid debut with this novel about friendship, love, abuse and deceit… rich and luxurious as heavy, expensive brocade… a goldmine of literary references” — Kirkus Reviews starred review, July 1 2010

“This hypnotic debut from Australian author Tranter pays homage to Henry James’s A Portrait of a Lady while offering a suspenseful story line worthy of Patricia Highsmith . . . While Tranter’s sedate pacing avoids typical thriller antics and conventional crime plot twists, she raises some wickedly keen questions about art world wheeling and dealing.” US Publisher’s Weekly starred review, June 14 2010

“Henry James’s The Portrait of a Lady is reworked as a seductive contemporary literary thriller, balancing the flamboyant art scene of New York with cool, urban Sydney… a knowing, classy debut.” — Catherine Taylor in The Guardian, January 2011

“Part love story, part psychological thriller, this brilliantly written and captivating debut heralds a bright new talent.” (4 stars) — Henry Sutton in The Mirror, January 2011

“…make sure you don’t miss… The Legacy by Kirsten Tranter. A modern reworking of Henry James’s Portrait of a Lady set in the Manhattan art world, with plenty of jealousy and intrigue.” UK Marie Claire, February 2011

“… an engrossing tale, embellished by the author’s formidable powers of description. Nothing is safe from Kirsten Tranter’s gazillion-watt searchlight… The sedate rhythm enhances a story that’s not so much narrated as percolated. Add a cast of characters that includes a randy professor, a drugged-up fortune teller and a dominatrix, and you’ve got yourself a mystery to remember.” (3 stars) —  The Skinny (Edinburgh) January 2011 .

“Private investigation meets artsy New York in Tranter’s post 9/11-set debut. Like Julia, Tranter is Australian, giving the story the freshness of an outsider’s viewpoint despite the familiar setting.” — Sainsbury’s Magazine, February 2011

4 stars from UK Star Magazine, January 2011

The Legacy shows [Tranter] to be a novelist with a commanding talent – a tough plain-stylist who can people her fictional world with characters of great vivacity and vigour… Full of suave and stunning evocations of Sydney and Manhattan, this sparkling and spacious novel captures the smell and sap of young people half in love with everyone they’re vividly aware of, and groping to find themselves like the answer to an erotic enigma.” — Peter Craven in The Monthly (read the whole review)

The Legacy is, on the surface, a pastiche of Henry James’ The Portrait of a Lady, but on a deeper level it is a searing portrait of Sydney and New York before and after 9/11, a world morally unprepared for the calamity that overtakes it.” — Nicholas Birns, selecting The Legacy as one of the Best Books of 2010 in Australian Book Review December 2010

“The Legacy had me enthralled from the start. It is not a book to read quickly, but one to savour.” — Gilian Dooley, selecting The Legacy as one of the Best Books of 2010 in Australian Book Review December 2010

“Ingrid’s New York life unravels in a satisfying mystery, yet The Legacy is much more sophisticated than a typical genre novel. Tranter’s characters are well-written, her prose sophisticated and rich (but never heavy handed, despite many literary references), and self-conscious in the right moments so that it never dips into cliché. This is the most satisfying novel I’ve read all year.” (Four and a half stars) —Bookseller + Publisher (read the whole review here)

“An elegantly written novel of love, loss, art and grief whose world you miss once you’ve turned the final page.” (Four stars) — Who Weekly

“Some novels are cracking good reads – they’ll have you reading late into the night as you tell yourself ‘just one more chapter …’ Other novels are more ideas-based – they’re the kind that leave you ruminating long after you’ve finished reading. But the best novels – like The Legacy – are a compelling mixture of the two.” — Readings Newsletter (read the whole review)

“You can’t/won’t put it down. Riveting.” — Woman’s Day

“Tranter has set herself the most exciting and dangerous of literary feats: to build upon a much-loved masterpiece. The task does not overpower her… The Legacy is an entertaining literary thriller that skilfully describes the almost pleasurable pain of love and life denied, its ripe promises the sweetest before they drop.” —The Australian (read the whole review)

The Legacy is a compelling mystery right from its haunting prologue… It is also a sophisticated meditation on the nature of friendship and destiny” —The Sunday Tasmanian

“A sophisticated work of fiction, introducing a formidable new Australian writer. Her themes ruminate on art and representation, memory, grief and desire… Tranter evokes brilliantly the heady pace of New York” —The Age

“an assured, complex and beautifully crafted work with a measured and restrained tone that is lyrical yet never cloying. Her characters are beautifully observed and written, without a false note.” —The Courier Mail

“Tranter’s story of love and life and the interplay of lively, strong, appealing characters has an interesting philosophical underlay and an intriguing, almost-open ending” —The South Australian

“never lacks assurance or narrative drive” —The Sydney Morning Herald

“engrossing… Tranter hands you nothing on a plate in the end, but the journey through this nuanced and assured first novel is a compelling one.” —Sunday Telegraph