The Gifts

Haunting, thrilling, wonderful. I loved it.

Stacey Halls
The Gifts UK paperback - Liz Hyder
The UK paperback
The Gifts US hardback - Liz Hyder
The US hardback, out April 2023

She gasps for air. Newly-formed impossible wings dig hard into her back as she looks up at the canopy of trees. Papery leaves whirl down towards her in a cascade of colour. Remnants of the summer past. It reminds her of something and she grasps for the memory deep in the labyrinth of her mind. The tiny motes of dust trapped in the sunbeams of her father's library from when she was a child. Patterns in the air. Angel dust, he used to call it. Angel dust.

Set in 1840, The Gifts opens with a young woman in agony, staggering alone through a forest in Shropshire as a huge pair of wings rip from her shoulders. Meanwhile, when rumours of a 'fallen angel' cause a frenzy across London, a surgeon desperate for fame and fortune finds himself in the grips of a dangerous obsession, one that will place the women he seeks in the most terrible danger...

Liz Hyder's debut adult novel, The Gifts was published in UK hardback, audio and eBook in February 2022. The UK paperback was published in September 2022. In April 2023, The Gifts was published in the US.

Find out more about the idea behind the book.

Runner-up for the 2023 McKitterick Prize.

Manilla Press (UK): Hardback, 17th February 2022 / Paperback, 1st September 2022, £8.99

Sourcebooks (US): Hardback, 25th April 2023, $27.99

Hyder's remarkable adult debut... skilfully juggles the many threads, never slowing the momentum of her propulsive plot, and by blending realistic and fantastic elements, she perfectly captures the era's uneasy attempts to marry faith and science. This memorable outing has special appeal for fans of fantasy-inflected historicals such as Sarah Perry's The Essex Serpent.

Publishers Weekly (US)

a remarkable, unpredictable tale of ambition, faith and survival, a blend of historical fiction and fantasy from a deft storyteller.

Bookpage (US)

Brimming with historical detail and beautifully written, the soulful prose soars. It's an insightful mysterious read celebrating female friendship and solidarity.

Daily Express

Impressive - an imaginative extraordinary flight of fancy firmly grounded in the grim realities of Victorian England.

Daily Mirror

a stirring tale of female empowerment, full of vivid imagery and evocative settings… The Gifts' scope is impressive and sure to win Hyder new fans

The Observer

An extraordinary weaving together of the lives of four women. For any who loved The Essex Serpent, this is one that will sing to your soul. For myself, I found it to be a dream of a book, one that I could lose myself in and escape from these curious times we live in. There's a darkness to it also, but also a fierce light, passion. It is utterly absorbing.

Jackie Morris, co-creator of The Lost Words

Fierce and touching, this extremely compelling novel follows its female protagonists through 19th century London where a surgeon struggles with the dark lure of scientific ambition while his marriage crumbles, a journalist pursues the mystery of the angel fished from the Thames and two young women find themselves inexplicably transformed in the depths of despair. Beautiful and riveting.

Jennifer Saint, author of Ariadne

I loved this. Brilliant storytelling, magical realism, historical fiction that discusses feminism, religion, art, motherhood and it's romantic too.. Shades of Angela Carter, and fans of Elizabeth MacNeal will enjoy it too.

Kate Sawyer, author of The Stranding

The Gifts instantly became one of my all-time favourite books. It was everything I want in a novel: full, flawed characters, a hint of something magical, angst, the filth and strangeness of Victorian Britain, that ruthless consideration of the female body and who has agency over it. I just loved everything about it.

Rebecca F John, author of The Empty Greatcoat and The Haunting of Henry Twist

I devoured The Gifts, eager to find out the fate of its wonderfully drawn characters. A wonderful, atmospheric book that immersed me in the dirty streets of nineteenth century London and swept me away to the hills of Shropshire. A real gem.

Louise Hare, author of This Lovely City

From the moment the Thames gave up its astonishing secret, I was transfixed by this fantastical tale of winged women and their quest for liberation in the face of science turned into dark obsession. A deliciously intriguing mix of moral bankruptcy and resilience, with a captivating female friendship at its heart.

Sonia Velton, author of Blackberry and Wild Rose

An extraordinary novel — resonant, propulsive, and utterly absorbing. Once I'd picked it up, I truly couldn't put it down — I didn't want to leave Liz Hyder's vividly realised world, and I cannot wait to follow wherever she takes us next.

Katie Lowe, author of The Furies

Lovers of neo-Victorian fiction will be spellbound by this story of ambition and desire in the worlds of science and medicine combined with myth and magical realism. A gritty feminist 'fairy tale'… taking flight on the wings of Hyder's addictive words.

Essie Fox, author of The Somnambulist

Haunting, magical, wonderful. At once a dark cautionary tale of unchecked ambition, and a sparkling story of love, loyalty and friendship. Pacy and immersive, this multifaceted novel is sure to do well.

Joanne Burn, author of The Hemlock Cure

Stunning. A compulsive page turning adventure packed with everything I love in a book. Intrigue, adventure, rich descriptions, and difficult women.

Ericka Waller, author of Dog Days

Full of rich historical detail, magic and romance, The Gifts is simply delightful. Engrossing and fresh and unusual in the best possible way, I really, truly adored it.

Kirsty Capes, author of Careless

A hugely satisfying read. Wonderfully imagined. Deep reading pleasure. So many people will love this book.

Nicola Davies, author of The Song that Sings Us

Completely beguiling…

Amanda Mason, author of The Hiding Place

Goldsboro Books limited edition

This UK hardback first edition of The Gifts comes with feathered blue sprayed edges and is signed by Liz. Limited to 500 copies. Available exclusively from Goldsboro Books. £24.99 each.

Waterstones limited edition

Signed exclusive edition with sprayed edges. Waterstones says "Recounted from five different perspectives, the adult debut from the Waterstones Children's Book Prize category winner is a rich and rewarding gothic mystery set in nineteenth-century England, where mysterious creatures and a supposed 'fallen angel' spell danger and obsession for four women and a fame-hungry surgeon."

This UK special limited edition comes with blue sprayed edges and is signed by Liz. Available exclusively from Waterstones.

Sold Out.

The idea behind the book

After Bearmouth, I knew the next story I told would be very different, something epic in scale and wildly ambitious with women absolutely at its heart. Historical fiction but with an element of the unreal, 'imagined history' if you like. The idea for The Gifts first came about from an image that jumped into my head - of a woman, alone in the woods in autumn, struggling as a huge pair of wings rip from her shoulders. I wondered who she was and what the reaction to her might be and I knew those woods would be in Shropshire, near to where I live. I also had a strong sense that the story would be Victorian-set and I fast realised how woeful my knowledge of the 19th century was outside of the enclosed world of mines in which Bearmouth is set. So I started from scratch. I read endless books about and from the time, everything from food and clothing to education and politics. I read archive newspapers, sought out first-hand accounts and visited numerous galleries and museums. I took inspiration from all over, both before and after The Gifts is set. From the brilliant artist Annie Swynnerton to the rakish surgeon Astley Cooper and the anatomist and intellectual John Hunter, from George Eliot and Harriet Martineau to the talented botanist, Mary McGhie, a woman of colour who lived in Ludlow in the early 19th century.

My research took me all over, from the extraordinary living art that is Dennis Severs's House on Folgate Street in London to the haunting atmosphere of The Judge's Lodging in Presteigne. I stepped into the wonderful Old Operating Theatre near London Bridge like a time traveller, and revisited the archipelago of Orkney, listening and talking to storytellers. I walked as my characters, wearing them like a costume, seeing the world through their eyes. I strolled through the City of London at weekends when it is emptied of workers, imagining away the glass and steel towers, peeling back the layers of time to see only what might have been there in 1840. I stitched buttons onto card, a tedious and mind-numbing job that Mary, my youngest character, does in order to earn some coins. I touched the clothing in museums, tried on outfits (who doesn't love a hat?), and breathed in the stifled air from gas-lit basements, the flickering light throwing shadows in unexpected places — no wonder the Victorians reinvented the ghost story!

I used all of these experiences, places and more in The Gifts. Like a jackdaw, I stole the shiniest things from my delvings into the past and repurposed them for I am of course a storyteller, not an historian.

The Gifts is unashamedly a feminist text for I wanted to give voice to and celebrate the women who tend to get forgotten by history. Those who aren't the 'first woman' to achieve such and such, but the women who came before. The ones who didn't kick the door down but who helped unlock it for those who came after. I hope you enjoy it.

Liz Hyder

See Liz's other books