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Winner of The 2021 Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize
Inspired by Petra Kelly, the original Green Party leader and political activist who fought for the planet in 1980s Germany, Shaena Lambert brings us a captivating new novel about a woman who changed history and transformed environmental politics - and who, like many history-changing women, has been largely erased. Award-winning novelist Madeleine Thien calls Petra "a masterpiece - a fierce, humane and powerful novel for our times".
January, 1980. At the height of the Cold War, Petra Kelly inspires hundreds of thousands to take to the streets to protest the placement of nuclear missiles on West German soil - including a NATO general named Emil Gerhardt, who shocks the establishment by converting to the cause. Petra and her general not only vault to fame as the stars of the Green Party, but they also fall in love. Then Manfred Schwartz, an ex-lover, urges Petra to draw back the curtain on Emil's war record, and they enter a world both complicated and threatening.
Told by Manfred Schwartz, from his place in a present world even more beset by existential threats, Petra is an exploration of love, jealousy, and the power of social change. A woman capable of founding a new and world-changing politics and taking on two superpowers, Petra still must grapple with her own complex nature and a singular and fatal love.
What the critics say
"Petra is a masterpiece - a fierce, humane and powerful novel for our times. Shaena Lambert brings to life the nearly forgotten revolutionary, Petra Kelly, and the circle of activists who transformed environmental and global politics. Petra, the story of generations reckoning with history, sex, the land, guilt, and our troubled future, is at every moment personal and political. What does it mean to remake not only the world but one another, what if our inner morality is riddled with falsehoods, why do we harm in the name of love? Spellbinding and shattering, Petra is a tour de force - a haunting and a courageous awakening." (Madeleine Thien, Scotiabank Giller Prize-winning author of Do Not Say We Have Nothing)
"Petra by Shaena Lambert is a miracle of a novel, fully imagined and exquisitely written. Petra Kelly herself is incandescent on its pages, as she was in the world. I read her story with deep appreciation for the light it casts on the global fix we're in." (Joan Thomas, Governor General’s Literary Award-winning author of Five Wives)
"The characters are absolutely alive, the politics complex and subtle, yet so heartfelt and vital, and, because of that, current. It was one of those books that kept me up in the night, and made me eager to return to it - not a lot of fiction does that for me these days.” (Bill Gaston, author of A Mariner’s Guide to Self Sabotage and Just Let Me Look at You)