A chilling and unforgettable story of a close-knit Jewish family in London pushed to the brink when they suspect their daughter is a witch.

Hannah and Eric Rosenthal are devout Jews living in North London with their three children and Eric's father Yosef, a Holocaust survivor. Both intellectually gifted and deeply unconventional, the Rosenthals believe in the literal truth of the Old Testament and in the presence of God (and evil) in daily life. As Hannah prepares to publish a sensationalist account of Yosef's years in war-torn Europe—unearthing a terrible secret from his time in the camps—Elsie, her perfect daughter, starts to come undone. And then, in the wake of Yosef’s death, she disappears. When she returns, just as mysteriously as she left, she is altered in disturbing ways.

Witnessing the complete transformation of her daughter, Hannah begins to suspect that Elsie has delved too deep into the labyrinths of Jewish mysticism and gotten lost among shadows. But for Elsie's brother Tovyah, a brilliant but reclusive student struggling to find his place at Oxford, the truth is much simpler: his sister is the product of a dysfunctional family, obsessed with empty rituals, traditions, and unbridled ambition. But who is right? Is religion the cure for the disease or the disease itself? And how can they stop the darkness from engulfing Elsie completely?

Alive with both the bristling energy of a great campus novel and the unsettling, ever-shifting ground of a great horror tale, Fervor is at its heart a family story—where personal allegiances compete with obligations to history and to mysterious forces that offer both consolation and devastation.

About the author(s)

Toby Lloyd was born in London to a secular father and a Jewish mother. He studied English at Oxford University before moving to America to pursue an MFA in creative writing at NYU. He has published short stories and essays in Carve Magazine and the Los Angeles Review of Books and was longlisted for the 2021 V. S. Pritchett Short Story Prize. He lives in London.


"Magnificent, indelible . . . Lloyd has a remarkably light touch, bringing across complicated ideas with concision and precision. . . . That a young British novelist, on his first try, should have so effectively taken up a gauntlet laid down by the greatest American novelist of an era [Toni Morrison] might seem surprising. But maybe not. . . . The book models the entropy that sets in when we forget why fragile harmonies are fashioned, however imperfectly, out of chaos. Enriching his story with detail and above all heart, Lloyd has crafted a lasting allegory of our dark historical time." —Daniel Torday, The New York Times

"Extraordinary. . . In Lloyd’s explorations of religion, family, academia, and the haunting effects of the past, his writing is remarkably nuanced and, at the same time, suffused with suspense. A tremendous debut from a strikingly talented new writer." —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"There is a daring hybrid quality to Fervor, a sense of branching interests that might doom another, less focused book. . . But Lloyd pulls it off, announcing himself as an exciting voice to watch. . . Even beyond the structural cleverness and the way it plays with perspective, Fervor succeeds on the strength of Lloyd’s elegant, confident language. The book is driven by a constant push-pull between the sacred and secular, and Lloyd’s prose reflects that with sentences that feel like they could simultaneously conjure up a spirit and captivate a very human audience. His voice is practiced, smart and spellbinding, making Fervor a book that fans of family dramas and horror stories alike will happily devour." BookPage (starred review)

"Toby Lloyd confronts—somehow both head-on and sidelong—the awful and often blinding trauma of the Holocaust. . . What kind of novel is this, I found myself thinking as I turned its pages—surely one of the best questions a book can provoke. Is it a family story, is it a story about history, is it a full-on horror story? It is all these things at once, and it also asks, with urgency, who has the right to tell the story in the first place. . . This is a stylish, puzzling, mystical novel that offers no easy answers to how its characters—or its readers—might react in the wake of destruction. Inviting discussion rather than providing resolution, Fervor marks the arrival of an intriguing and intelligent new voice." —Financial Times

“A gripping and powerful story of a British Jewish family visited by ghosts and divided by politics. . . Fans of Isaac Bashevis Singer and Stephen King alike will thrill to this superb modern folk tale.” Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Lloyd’s suspenseful debut novel propels the reader deep into the heart of an idiosyncratic—and decidedly dysfunctional—family. . . Infused with motifs from Jewish folklore and classic horror films, Fervour animates themes of betrayal, belief and the past’s long tail." —The Guardian 

"Lloyd’s prose is crisp and flowing . . . the story’s true core is about the nature of meaning-making itself. How does faith affect how we understand the world? How does rationalism? And how much do we trust the evidence of our own senses when they don’t fall within our sensical understanding of the world? . . . Gripping." —Los Angeles Times

"What would hap­pen if the Witch of Endor — the ancient bib­li­cal seer who was able to sum­mon the depart­ed prophet, Samuel, for King Saul before going into bat­tle against the Philistines — was reborn in mod­ern times as the daugh­ter of a famed British writer? And what if this new witch’s eccen­tric­i­ties, depres­sion, and sub­stance abuse pro­vid­ed great lit­er­ary fod­der for her mother? . . . Fer­vor asks seri­ous ques­tions about what it means to be Jew­ish, reli­gious, British, and a mem­ber of a strange and estranged family." —Jewish Book Council

“Bracing, compassionate, wise, terrifying—this beautifully written novel will haunt your dreams. That is, if you can put it down long enough to get any sleep.” —Darin Strauss, author of Half a Life

“Intriguing, propulsive and profoundly disturbing, this is a fearless look into the dark heart of family politics from a naturally-gifted storyteller.” —Jonathan Coe, author of Middle England
“[In] this debut [that] explores identity, faith, and folklore . . . the dynamics are acutely observed, the characters vividly realized, and the escalating drama has the hypnotic, chilling effect of a horror film.” The Bookseller (Editor’s Choice)
“Both a provocative work of Jewish horror and a modern Biblical tale, Fervor is the tightly coiled story of an idiosyncratic family whose unlikely survival skills also spell its doom.” —Francisco Goldman, author of Monkey Boy