Fervor: A Novel
A chilling and unforgettable story of a close-knit Jewish family in London pushed to the brink when they suspect their daughter is a witch.
Hannah and Eric Rosenthal are devout Jews living in North London with their three children and Eric's father Yosef, a Holocaust survivor. Both intellectually gifted and deeply unconventional, the Rosenthals believe in the literal truth of the Old Testament and in the presence of God (and evil) in daily life. As Hannah prepares to publish a sensationalist account of Yosef's years in war-torn Europe—unearthing a terrible secret from his time in the camps—Elsie, her perfect daughter, starts to come undone. And then, in the wake of Yosef’s death, she disappears. When she returns, just as mysteriously as she left, she is altered in disturbing ways.
Witnessing the complete transformation of her daughter, Hannah begins to suspect that Elsie has delved too deep into the labyrinths of Jewish mysticism and gotten lost among shadows. But for Elsie's brother Tovyah, a brilliant but reclusive student struggling to find his place at Oxford, the truth is much simpler: his sister is the product of a dysfunctional family, obsessed with empty rituals, traditions, and unbridled ambition. But who is right? Is religion the cure for the disease or the disease itself? And how can they stop the darkness from engulfing Elsie completely?
Alive with both the bristling energy of a great campus novel and the unsettling, ever-shifting ground of a great horror tale, Fervor is at its heart a family story—where personal allegiances compete with obligations to history and to mysterious forces that offer both consolation and devastation.
Toby Lloyd was born in London to a secular father and a Jewish mother. He studied English at Oxford University before moving to America to pursue an MFA in Creative Writing at NYU. He has published short stories and essays in Carve Magazine and the Los Angeles Review of Books and was longlisted for the 2021 V. S. Pritchett Short Story Prize. He lives in London.