Cover image for The peacock feast
The peacock feast
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Sarah Crichton Books/Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2019.
Physical Description:
viii, 287 pages ; 24 cm
"A novel telling the dramatic, multigenerational story of the O'Connor family. When Prudence receives an unexpected visit from Grace, the granddaughter of Prudence's long estranged and now deceased brother, the two begin to unravel the stories of their connected lives."-- Provided by publisher.


Material Type
Call Number
Book Fiction Gorni
Book Fiction Gorni
Book Fiction Gorni

On Order



From "one of the most perceptive, compassionate writers of fiction in America...immensely talented and brave" (Michael Schaub, NPR), a historical saga about love, class, and the past we never escape.

The Peacock Feast opens on a June day in 1916 when Louis C. Tiffany, the eccentric glass genius, dynamites the breakwater at Laurelton Hall--his fantastical Oyster Bay mansion, with columns capped by brilliant ceramic blossoms and a smokestack hidden in a blue-banded minaret--so as to foil the town from reclaiming the beach for public use. The explosion shakes both the apple crate where Prudence, the daughter of Tiffany's prized gardener, is sleeping and the rocks where Randall, her seven-year-old brother, is playing.

Nearly a century later, Prudence receives an unexpected visit at her New York apartment from Grace, a hospice nurse and the granddaughter of Randall, who Prudence never saw again after he left at age fourteen for California. The mementos Grace carries from her grandfather's house stir Prudence's long-repressed memories and bring her to a new understanding of the choices she made in work and love, and what she faces now in her final days.

Spanning the twentieth century and three continents, The Peacock Feast ricochets from Manhattan to San Francisco, from the decadent mansions of the Tiffany family to the death row of a Texas prison, and from the London consultation room of Anna Freud to a Mendocino commune. With psychological acuity and aching eloquence, Lisa Gornick has written a sweeping family drama, an exploration of the meaning of art and the art of dying, and an illuminating portrait of how our decisions reverberate across time and space.

Author Notes

Lisa Gornick is the author of Louisa Meets Bear , Tinderbox , and A Private Sorcery . Her stories and essays have appeared widely, including in The New York Times , Prairie Schooner , Real Simple , Salon , Slate ,and The Sun . She holds a BA from Princeton and a PhD in clinical psychology from Yale, and is on the faculty of the Columbia University Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research. A long-time New Yorker, she lives in Manhattan with her family.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

Gornick (Louisa Meets Bear) braids the lives of three generations across a span of 100 years in this vivid novel. In 2013, Prudence Theet is 101, and she meets Grace O'Connor, her greatniece, for the first time. Prudence's brother Randall had disappeared from his family at the age of 14, and Grace informs Prudence that he had a son. As the two women begin telling each other about their lives, Prudence reaches as far back as the early 1900s, when her parents worked for the famous designer/artist Louis C. Tiffany on Long Island. Prudence recalls Tiffany's decision to destroy the section of breakwater that fronted his mansion, because local residents wished to reclaim it for public use, and his eccentric Peacock Feast in 1914, in which his children and other children presented roasted peacock to "men of genius": "On each tray, there's a peacock, its rainbow plumage... tangled with its porter's long loose hair." Grace's memories are of life with her twin brother, Garcia, after they were born in a 1960s commune and abandoned by their parents to Grandfather Randall, who then raised them. As Grace and Prudence fill in gaps for one another, such as the details of Randall's disappearance and subsequent life, a withheld memory reemerges from Prudence's childhood experiences. Gornick's prose is strong throughout; this is an intricately threaded story of family, secrets, loss, and closure. (Feb.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Booklist Review

Although Prudence O'Connor lived in Louis C. Tiffany's Long Island mansion for a brief time as a young child, the events she witnessed one fateful afternoon would influence and, perhaps, sabotage everything she endured during her astonishing 101-year lifetime. The children of one of Tiffany's maids and gardeners, Prudence and her brother, Randall, were relocated to Tiffany's Manhattan mansion after Tiffany precipitously demolished the breakwater in front of his Oyster Bay estate. The mystery that shrouded their banishment may be solved when Prudence receives a visit from a heretofore-unknown grandniece in the final months of her life. Grace is the granddaughter of Prudence's brother, who fled to San Francisco as a teenager to escape their father's drunken rages. Now, with the living embodiment of past generations sitting before her, Prudence begins to fill in the gaps in her history, from Manhattan society to Paris cafés to California's hippie communes. Delicately weaving Grace's present with Prudence's past, acclaimed novelist Gornick (Louisa Meets Bear, 2015) spins an appealing and enthralling family saga centered on notions of regret, remorse, and recrimination.--Carol Haggas Copyright 2018 Booklist

Library Journal Review

Prudence O'Connor is born to Irish servants in 1914, at Laurelton Hall, Louis Comfort Tiffany's famed Long Island mansion. Her quiet life in a tumultuous century brings her into the orbit of many luminaries, including Louis and his daughter Dorothy, as well as Anna Freud, Dorothy's collaborator in psychoanalysis. Repressed memories are a major theme of the novel, and Prudence comes to terms with some hard truths near the end of her life. The story bounces around in time and place, also following the trajectory of Prudence's brother Randall, who flees the family home to San Francisco at age 14 and falls out of touch with Prudence a few years later. Randall's adult granddaughter tracks down Prudence in New York in 2013, and the two lonely women, who have spent much of their lifetimes pushing others away, forge a strong connection. VERDICT Spanning a century, two coasts, and two continents, this well-researched historical novel is moving and profound, laying bare the corrosive nature of secrets and regrets and the sadness of not living one's life to the fullest. [See Prepub Alert, 7/30/18.]-Lauren Gilbert, Sachem P.L., Holbrook, NY © Copyright 2019. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.