An Exquisite Sense of What is Beautiful

J. David Simons

J. David Simons is a Scottish author, media journalist and literary editor. His first novel, The Credit Draper, was shortlisted for the McKitterick Prize, and his subsequent novels include The Liberation of Celia Kahn (2011), The Land Agent (2014), A Woman of Integrity (2017), The Responsibility of Love (2021), as well as An Exquisite Sense of What is Beautiful (new edition published in 2023). He has been awarded several bursaries from Creative Scotland and the Society of Authors and in 2012 was the recipient of a Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship.

Simons is also a former lawyer, charity administrator, cotton farmer and university lecturer. His nomadic lifestyle has allowed him to spend considerable time in Israel, Australia, Japan and the United States, and he currently lives in Javea, Spain.

An Exquisite Sense of What is Beautiful

by J. David Simons

  • RRP: £9.99 (print)
  • Format: Paperback, Edition: 2
  • ISBN: 9781913393700


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The personal collides with the political in this literary tour-de-force. In the 1950s, an eminent British writer pens a novel questioning the ethics of the nuclear destruction at Hiroshima and Nagasaki—but soon he’s trying to outrun his own past.

Hakone, Japan, 2003. An eminent British writer in his seventies, Sir Edward Strathairn, returns to a resort in the Japanese mountains where, in his youth, he spent a beautiful, snowed-in winter.

It was there he wrote his best-selling novel, The Waterwheel, accusing America of being in denial about the horrific aftermath of the Tokyo firebombings and the nuclear destruction at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

London, England, 1952. A young Edward falls in love with an avant-garde American artist, Macy. After their tumultuous relationship and breakup, he heads for Japan, where he meets someone else and becomes smitten again as he writes the novel that makes him famous.

This is as much a thrilling romance as it is a sensitive exploration of blame, power and guilt in post-war America, Japan and Britain. With a narrator whose behaviour strikes the national conscience as much as his own, An Exquisite Sense of What is Beautiful will stay with readers long after the final page is turned.

REVIEWS OF An Exquisite Sense of What is Beautiful

"An accomplished and compelling novel by a storyteller at the top of his game, An Exquisite Sense Of What Is Beautiful lives up to its ambitious title, delivering a story that is both delicate in its detail and politically robust." Chris Dolan, author of the award-winning Ascension Day, Redlegs and Aliyyah

"Highly accomplished and moving novel. It says much for Simons' skill that he can show us a [protagonist] Strathairn who for all his flaws and occasional selfishness can engage our sympathies when he finally realises the cost of his own denial." Sunday Herald

"If you're going to call your novel An Exquisite Sense of What is Beautiful then you have to be prepared to back it up. Luckily David Simons does this with style and substance. Simons pulls off one of the hardest tricks for a novelist, reflecting world events through the lives of individuals while avoiding the reader feeling like they are being given a history lesson or being preached to." Scots Whay Hae

"An Exquisite Sense of What is Beautiful moved me a great deal. But perhaps an even greater delight is the sheer beauty of Simons' descriptions: despite the engaging plot pulling me onwards, I often stopped to re-read and savour these. Really a wonderful, pleasurable, thoughtful novel." Sophie Cooke, author of The Glass House and Under the Mountain