Higher Ed

A Novel

Publisher: Random House Canada
In her most powerful and resonant novel to date, the acclaimed writer Tessa McWatt explores the ways in which people find love in desperately uncertain times.
      Against a backdrop of 21st-century east London, where cuts and job crunches and unemployment are ugly, unrelenting realities, three very different love stories bloom. Francine, a university administrator who firmly believes that she is unattractive and unloveable, is unhinged after witnessing a tragic road accident. Cracked open, she is also on the verge of realizing that she is worth something to someone. Meanwhile Robin, a young film prof who Francine has lusted after from afar, is awoken to beauty in the form of the young Polish waitress in his local café, who cannot believe that he might love her back. And then there is Olivia, Robin's charismatic student, a mixed race girl growing up in a racist household, who thought she'd been abandoned by her father, Ed. Conducting research for a law school project on what society owes the dead, she stumbles across him working in a council office, where he's in charge of burying the indigent and unclaimed. Soon she realizes that Ed is not the kind of man who would abandon anybody.
     Thoughtful, poignant and profound, Higher Ed is a brilliantly observed novel that illuminates the human capacity for love, and lingers in the soul long after the last page is read.


"She has a stirring ability to echo the pull of tides and the tremors of the earth within the human body." 
—The Globe and Mail

“A vibrant, beating heart of a book. Characters come together from vastly different backgrounds, united by longing and displacement and bursting forth in McWatt's vital, witty, raw prose.
A book that contains multitudes, Higher Ed is less about how we are different than the ways in which we are the same. Sly, brainy, and razor-sharp, McWatt's writing is unmissable.”
Grace O’Connell, author of Magnified World
“A finely tuned sense of sadness and quiet despair haunts all of the characters in Tessa McWatt’s tenderly observed view of East London life.”
Atom Egoyan
“Wonderful narration. Wonderful map of the archipelago. Embark and discover it!”
John Berger

“A wryly passionate, slyly political and engrossing concatenation of London lives, that only a Londoner by choice could have written.”
China Mieville
“The search for love is at the heart of Tessa McWatt’s work as a writer, and so it is in Higher Ed. Her characters are by turns wise and foolish, hopeful and sometimes—movingly—so very near defeat. But they all continue to search. In dark times, they want to walk to the light. We watch them and hope that they make it.”
Ronan Bennett