Home / Sun Devil Shelf Life / The Vexations
Cover of The Vexations by Caitlin Horrocks
July 2019
Little, Brown and Company

College or Unit:

The Vexations

A Novel
Caitlin Horrocks

A kaleidoscopic debut novel about love, family, genius and the madness of art, circling the life of eccentric composer Erik Satie and La Belle Époque Paris, from a writer who is "wildly entertaining" (San Francisco Chronicle), "startlingly ingenious" (Boston Globe) and "impressively sharp" (New York Times Book Review).

Erik Satie begins life with every possible advantage. But after the dual blows of his mother's early death and his father's breakdown upend his childhood, Erik and his younger siblings — Louise and Conrad — are scattered. Later, as an ambitious young composer, Erik flings himself into the Parisian art scene, aiming for greatness but achieving only notoriety.

As the years, then decades, pass, he alienates those in his circle as often as he inspires them, lashing out at friends and lovers like Claude Debussy and Suzanne Valadon. Only Louise and Conrad are steadfast allies. Together they strive to maintain their faith in their brother's talent and hold fast the badly frayed threads of family. But in a journey that will take her from Normandy to Paris to Argentina, Louise is rocked by a severe loss that ultimately forces her into a reckoning with how Erik — obsessed with his art and hungry for fame — will never be the brother she has wished for.

With her buoyant, vivid reimagination of an iconic artist's eventful life, Caitlin Horrocks has written a captivating and ceaselessly entertaining novel about the tenacious bonds of family and the costs of greatness, both to ourselves and to those we love.


Caitlin Horrocks earned a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from ASU in 2007.

Praise for this book

"Horrocks shines while envisioning Erik scoring a silent film, debuting a masterpiece or being released from jail (where he was held for defaming a reviewer) so he can complete a commission. Horrocks's description of Satie's music is also apt for her noteworthy novel: slow, spare and at its best finely filigreed."

Publishers Weekly

"Horrocks paints an atmospheric portrait of bohemian Paris and a poignant one of Satie and his avant-garde circle, who 'lived in the yet: not now, but soon' when their art would be recognized. ... Finely written and deeply empathetic, a powerful portrait of artistic commitment and emotional frustration."

Kirkus Reviews