Joseph Zigmond
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Some nights last forever . . .

In the summer of 2006, a chance encounter on the London Underground finds eighteen-year-old Ali tagging along with a school friend and a mysterious girl to a club. The girl is Cece, and she seems to be everything Ali is not. For one night he is transfixed and transformed into someone who might belong. All he knows is he will remember it forever. 

In 2064, Ali takes his final flight out of the UK to Morocco, in a world upturned by climate collapse. He has a wife and a daughter, reasons to return. Yet Ali is willing to abandon everything to find Cece again, finally to recapture that long summer night when he was young, and to understand how the actions taken – and not taken – have changed all their lives. 

Luminous and full of longing, Constance is a novel of teenage fragility, male blindness and everyday complicity.  


‘This is a heartbreaking but ultimately hopeful book, a searing portrait of love, betrayal, redemption and complicity.’
—Laura Bates, author of Everyday Sexism and Fix the System, not the Women

‘A multilayered novel that beautifully observes the complex nature of longstanding friendships and the giddy immediacy of new love. Incisively witty yet deeply sensitive to the concerns of our age.’
—Francine Toon, author of Pine

‘It’s elegant, sharp, heartbreaking and deeply human. . . It dances on ruined surfaces, falls into hope, flirts with beginnings, denials, and the indulgence of memory as a fiction. It’s a searing exposé of the mutation of male desire. It questions what is toxic and what is catalytic in a lifetime, and what can be both . . . Astonishing.’ 
—Emma Jane Unsworth, author of Animals and Adults

‘Witty and bleak, uncanny and humane, Zigmond’s Constance does not flinch from the truth. This beautiful novel gives us the strength and pain of being young, the lessons and loss of growing up – and a prophecy of the future, already inevitable, in which even our losses will be taken away.’
—Sam Thompson, author of Booker Prize longlisted Communion Town

Constance is a novel about possibility- what our world may yet become and what terror and love can be found by those trying to survive it. Zigmond’s writing transports us effortlessly across time, dropping us into cities in our past, present and future with ease. Unsettling and beautiful with a tantalising narrator who readers will be desperate to pin down.’
—Brydie Lee-Kennedy, author of Go Lightly

‘I’ve encountered a few climate novels in the last few months. Constance is the best of the bunch. Zigmond’s evocation of 2064 is especially vivid and imaginative, as is the version of faraway 2006.’
—Craig Taylor, author of New Yorkers, and Londoners

Published: 8 June 2023
ISBN: 978-1911648567
Cover design: © Luke Bird
Front cover artwork: © Romann Ramshorn/Millennium Images
Dimensions: B format paperback with flaps
Length: 288 pages

Publicist: Claire Maxwell at Read Media
Agent: Anna Weber at United Agents
Foreign rights: The Marsh Agency

About the author

Joseph Zigmond is a non-fiction publisher living in Brighton with his wife and daughter. Constance is his first book.

Constance by Joseph Zigmond

At once the carriage was filled with perfect little scenes. He almost summoned the effort to remove the lens cap, but again the booze slackened him in his chair. A string of girls filed on and chatted, tourists pointed on a map, a uniformed Tube worker picked his way through to slump into a seat and hug his rucksack. A near-identical mother and daughter stepped on and exchanged uncomfortable glances as the girls began to sing loudly, sniggering between choruses. And finally, just as the doors were closing, a young couple jumped on. A girl and a boy, his age. The girl was smiling. A private smile, but impossible to ignore – a smile for herself.

Ali opened the book to read the top paragraph once more. He read it twice. Three times. Then he slowly sat up. He had to look. Had to. He knew he was a cliché, and she was just a face, one of millions. And hadn’t he fallen for faces on the train before? Or cherished the screen of hair that hid their features, sparing him the heavy blows of longing? Probably on this carriage, even.

Crushes, Ali knew, were simply the snap decisions of biology, the speculative creation of a perfect whole from a few parts. But still he watched, putting his headphones over his ears as though they could hide him. Was there anything so different about her? He pressed shuffle a few times, and finally a slur of strings poured into his ears. A solo violin circling two cellos as they plucked, searching for its cadence. He hadn’t missed the stonewashed green of her eyes, the muscles of her neck, but there was something about the smile. The lips. Ovate, absently bitten, they parted as if they could taste the air, and approved of it. Here, he finally saw charisma for what it was: the conscious possession of confidence.

It fascinated him, immobilized him. Her confidence. It was lightning in a bottle; he knew because he was a bottle with no lightning. He knew only how to recognize it, never how to have it.

He weighed the book in his hands, turned it over and inspected the barcode. Anything not to read. It wasn’t clear to him why he was this way. Perhaps because he was an only child. Not the isolation, but the cause – he carried the guilt for his mother’s infertility, which had been a consequence of his birth. If, in the immediate aftermath, the relief of his delivery had outweighed the distress over her damage, then that balance slowly changed over the next few years. And by the time he was nine or ten, a grief had taken hold of his parents. A grief for siblings never made.

It wasn’t punitive in any way, his parents’ resentment, merely present. A discernible lack, borne out under the stress of a failing marriage. Any pet cat or hamster might carry the name of the hopes he had dashed in his wake. Any domestic argument would circle the void he had created, their frustrated voices rising in the absence of a younger infant to protect. They loved him, but he wasn’t enough. He simply wasn’t the whole plan, never had been. And with no sibling to confide in, he found big brothers in friends who were outsized characters. He read books. He hid on trains. And once in a while he would catch sight of a confidence he would never have.

It almost scared him how exhilarating it was to look; every glimpse was an erosion of willpower. Unlike the rest of their peers, she seemed so genuinely happy that he winced at the promises he would make if she were to turn and talk to him. More beautiful people must have more beautiful thoughts. For him, a crush, the random and absolute ring around the heart, was never so tight as this. He wondered if he would pass out.

Writing Magazine, September 2023. Joseph Zigmond: My Path to Publication

Buzz Magazine, 14 June 2023. David Nobakht: ‘as razor-sharp as Ian McEwan’s Lessons’

IMAGE Magazine, 13 June 2023. Sarah Gill: ‘on capturing the myopia of young love’

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