It is 1950, and Willa's mother has a new beau. The arrival of his blue-eyed, sun-kissed sons at Willa's summer home signals the end of her safe childhood. Nine-year-old Willa is drawn to the strange and solitary younger brother, Patrick. Left to their own devices, Willa is swept up in Patrick's wicked games.
The heat ripples into sentences dripping with delicious detail ... Its nod to the classics makes Demi-Gods comparable to Donna Tartt’s The Secret History. As does the feeling of a new and important author arriving.
The novel’s sexual dynamics are certainly strange, but even at their most scatological, they’re soft. I wasn’t expecting so light a touch: like a kiss on the brow when you expected to be slapped. You’ll obsess over this kiss for a fortnight ... It’s exciting to see boy-girl relations explored with such candor, with no room for easy answers, tidy endings, clear consent ... Robertson conjures a languid world, a Didion-esque tumble-dry of summery whites. The book is of a piece with André Aciman’s Call Me by Your Name and other soft-core explorations of how we mess one another up, and realize it only later ... I crave Robertson’s take on the objects and tensions of my own life. Rarely have blurred lines, in weird sex or otherwise, been explored with such grace.
...a poetic debut novel ... she clearly knows her mythological stuff. Like Donna Tartt's The Secret History or Lauren Groff's Fates and Furies, her novel uses ancient tales as its blueprint ... Yet, these characters are real people in real places. Victoria and La Jolla, Calif., are 'mirror towns … the images are flipped,' hitting the dual note that resounds through the novel ... She juxtaposes grime and glory, from dirty underwear to ocean phosphorescence, to beautifully disturbing effect. Set in the 1950s and '60s, Demi-Gods is atmospheric without historical overload ... the author steers away from nostalgia, giving her story a suitable timelessness.