All is Song

It is late summer in London. Leonard Deppling returns to the capital from Scotland, where he has spent the past year nursing his dying father. Missing from the funeral was his older brother William, who lives in the north of the city with his wife and three young sons. Leonard is alone and rootless – separated from his partner and on a sabbatical from work. He moves in with William, hoping to renew their friendship, and to unite their now diminished family.

William is a former lecturer and activist who now runs informal meetings with ex-students. Defiantly unworldly and forever questioning, he is a man who believes that happiness and freedom come only from knowing oneself, and who spends his life examining the extent of his ignorance. Yet for all Leonard’s attempts at closeness with his brother, he comes to share his late father’s anxieties about the eccentricities of William’s behaviour.

But it seems William has already set his own fate in motion, when news comes of a young student who has followed one of his arguments to a shocking conclusion. Rather than submit, William embraces the danger in the only way he knows how – a decision which threatens to consume not only himself, but his entire family.

Set against the backdrop of tabloid frenzies and an escalating national crisis, All Is Song is a novel about filial and moral duty, and about the choice of questioning above conforming. It is a work of remarkable perception, intensity and resonance from one of Britain’s most promising young writers.

‘Profound, beautiful, cathartic writing.’ THE TELEGRAPH

‘Harvey’s prose is graceful and unhurried, full of sharp observation and moments of subtly understated pathos.’ THE GUARDIAN

‘This beautiful composition does that rare thing, of provoking free thought while scrutinising the far-reaching repercussions of such rebellious activity.’ – THE INDEPENDENT

‘Harvey’s slow, intense thoughtfulness feels positively Woolfean at times. She thinks deeply, and writes beautifully about these thoughts.’ THE SUNDAY TIMES

‘Intense, rewarding, and bracingly serious.’ FINANCIAL TIMES

We call upon the author to explain

When we discuss what novels are about, I think it’s sometimes true that the author’s answer will be different to the reader’s. This is the case for All Is Song, which is, to me, a book that tries to re-imagine and reinterpret the life of Socrates in the modern western world. I’m sure that this isn’t what the book appeared to be about for most readers, especially those who know nothing about Socrates. I can’t anticipate what it might be about for others. Each and every reader response is definitive. So all I attempt to do here in this very short space is say what motivated me to write it, and what I wanted to say.

William is a very loose refashioning of Socrates, with a biography largely borrowed from him. I have referenced events and aspects of Socrates’ life continually for those who would know to look out for it, but want at no point for the uninitiated reader to feel lost or excluded from a private joke.

I wrote about Socrates because I wanted to explore how the deeply questioning mind is tolerated in modern society. If we look back on Socrates now at all, we tend to do so with fondness, respect and a tacit disapproval of the society that put him to death. Those feckless ancients! And yet, are we any better? So often I feel that in the centuries of astonishing progress since Socrates’ death, the one area in which we’ve shown little progress is in our willingness to look honestly at ourselves, as individuals, and be prepared to question the validity of the things we believe, even where this means letting go of views we’ve come to identify with. Would we be any more tolerant towards a person who insisted, absolutely insisted, on doing this now?

All Is Song is an open-ended exploration of this question, and from this basic starting point the figure of Socrates himself fades away and those of William and Leonard come into being. Then the novel is wrested away from Socrates and becomes, absolutely, theirs.

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