Invitation to a Bonfire
a novel

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, who to love, and whether to pay the complicated price of happiness.

Bloomsbury (US), June 5, 2018.

Raven Books (UK), July 12, 2018.

Cover of Invitation to a Bonfire, a novel by Adrienne Celt
US cover


An Indie Next Pick for June 2018 and a Publisher's Weekly Spring 2018 Literary Fiction Pick
An O Magazine 'Top Book of Summer' and one of Amazon's 10 Best Books of the Month for June 2018. Named one of the Best Books of Summer by Elle, Parade, Harper's Bazaar, Chicago Tribue, Bustle, Vol 1. Brooklyn, Lit Hub, Fodor's Travel, MyDomaine, and more. "Most anticipated" by The Millions, The Rumpus, and Book Riot.

On a sentence-by-sentence level, Adrienne Celt’s seductive, searing novel, about a love triangle of sorts in a New Jersey boarding school in the 1920s, is one of the most brilliant books I’ve read in some time…[A] compelling story that makes you question familiar power dynamics, the complicated ethics of fidelity, and what horrible and beautiful things we give ourselves permission to do, all for the sake of the sublime.

- Kristin Iverson, Nylon Magazine

A cleverly constructed novel about love, obsession and revenge … [A] cunning plot and … singular, sparkling prose … Invitation to a Bonfire is part noir, part coming of age and a wholly enjoyable read.

- BookPage

Trembling with atmosphere … An ominous snowball of a novel … with a slow-burning first half and a second half that hurtles toward inevitable catastrophe. Rich and moody.

- Kirkus Reviews

Adrienne Celt’s Invitation to a Bonfire is a propulsive literary thriller masterfully constructed and written with an extraordinary, raw urgency that will leave readers breathless.

- Lori Feathers, Interabang Books, Indie Next shelf talker

[This novel has] all the delicious tension of a psychological thriller, the mysteries dissected in prose as sharp and precise as a scalpel … The result is a novel that packs all the punch of the very best noir—only with more depth. Highly recommended.

- Booklist

At once a taut psychological thriller and a sensitive character study; fans of each should rejoice.

- Library Journal (Starred Review)

A tense psychological thriller and deft character study—one loosely inspired by the marriage of Vera and Vladimir Nabokov.

- Chicago Tribune

In Invitation to a Bonfire, Adrienne Celt draws on the story of Vera and Vladimir Nabokov’s marriage to create an ominous literary thriller that’s as tricky as a chess match between grand masters. [An] ominous hothouse of a novel…

- Sarah Harrison Smith, Amazon Book Review

The way Adrienne Celt so completely inhabits the voices and lives of her characters is an amazing thing to behold. A dazzling stylist and a powerful writer, she has given us a rich, tapestried story of love, loneliness, and betrayal.

- Nathan Hill, author of The Nix

Part psychological thriller and part literary puzzle, Invitation to a Bonfire is a sexy, brilliant, and gripping novel about the fine line between passion and obsession. I am in awe of Celt’s mastery as a prose stylist and storyteller; I can’t stop thinking about this amazing book.

- Edan Lepucki, bestselling author of California and Woman No. 17

…the language is Nabokovian to say the least. Right when you think Celt has hit some undefined apogee of prose, she proves time and time again there’s still more fun to be had, and her lyricism and wit are a real treat.

- Aaram Mrjoian, Chicago Review of Books

This is an incendiary and provocative novel about obsession.

- Publisher's Weekly

Adrienne Celt harnesses the tension of a tango and weaves it with revolution, sexual awakening, creative warfare, and the power dynamics of marriage, resulting in a dangerously seductive and viciously smart read. Celt proves herself a master of form, effortlessly moving from the punch of noir to the sumptuousness of Nabokov. She is a writer to envy.

- Erika Swyler, author of The Book of Speculation

Engrossing, endearing, phenomenal — this book will set you on fire. In this brilliant novel, Adrienne Celt’s lush prose and mousetrap plot deliver a wild wonder.

- Alissa Nutting, author of Tampa and Made for Love

Sensual and wickedly clever, Celt’s Invitation to a Bonfire plays with our hearts and our expectations as we follow the lives of three unforgettable characters who love and obsess in turn.

- Esmé Weijun Wang, author of The Border of Paradise

Celt’s writing is dangerous and fine, an impersonation of Nabokov’s style so acute it caused my teeth to itch and an obscure ringing in my bones. An exploration of fraud in both the literary and criminal sense, this is a modern reimagining of the relationship between Vera and Nabokov that delights as much as it distresses.

- Rufi Thorpe, author of Dear Fang, With Love, and The Girls from Coronoa del Mar

A complex, ripe depiction … Celt captures the voices of the Russian immigrants in sensual detail, and what begins as a literary gem evolves into a psychological thriller reminiscent of Patricia Highsmith.

- Tucson Weekly

Adrienne Celt’s Invitation to a Bonfire will infiltrate your subconscious …When the threads—like lit dynamite fuses—hit their target, you’ll get way more than just a bonfire.

- Jenny Maloney, Criminal Element

Sharp, seductive historical fiction.

- Bustle

Fascinating … The story is beautifully told with enough absolutely stunning sentences to enthrall the reader.

- LitHub
UK cover of Invitation to a Bonfire, a novel by Adrienne Celt
UK cover