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Cover of Invitation to a Bonfire by Adrienne Celt
June 2018
Bloomsbury USA

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Invitation to a Bonfire

A Novel
Adrienne Celt

The seductive story of a dangerous love triangle, inspired by the infamous Nabokov marriage, with a spellbinding psychological thriller at its core.

In the 1920s, Zoya Andropova, a young refugee from the Soviet Union, finds herself in the alien landscape of an elite all-girls New Jersey boarding school. Having lost her family, her home and her sense of purpose, Zoya struggles to belong, a task made more difficult by the malice her peers heap on scholarship students and her new country's paranoia about Russian spies. When she meets the visiting writer and fellow Russian émigré Leo Orlov — whose books Zoya has privately obsessed over for years — her luck seems to have taken a turn for the better. But she soon discovers that Leo is not the solution to her loneliness: he's committed to his art and bound by the sinister orchestrations of his brilliant wife, Vera. 

As the reader unravels the mystery of Zoya, Lev and Vera's fate, Zoya is faced with mounting pressure to figure out who she is and what kind of life she wants to build. Grappling with class distinctions, national allegiance and ethical fidelity — not to mention the powerful magnetism of sex — "Invitation to a Bonfire" investigates how one's identity is formed, irrevocably, through a series of momentary decisions, including how to survive, whom to love and whether to pay the complicated price of happiness.


Adrienne Celt earned a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Arizona State University in 2012. Her debut novel, "The Daughters," won the PEN Southwest Book Award for Fiction and was an NPR Best Book of the Year and an NYPL Favorite Book of the Year.

Praise for this book

“Trembling with atmosphere, Celt's second novel follows a young Russian émigré as she becomes embroiled in a sinister love triangle with a brilliant novelist and his exceptional wife. ... An ominous snowball of a novel (very) loosely based on the Nabokov marriage, with a slow-burning first half and a second half that hurtles toward inevitable catastrophe. ... Rich and moody.”

Kirkus Reviews

“An incendiary and provocative novel about obsession.”

Publishers Weekly