Synopses & Reviews
The cool, beautiful Constance Schuyler lives alone in Manhattan in the early 1960s. At a literary party, she meets Sidney Klein, a professor of poetry twenty years her senior. Sidney is a single father with a poor marital record, and he pursues Constance with relentless determination. Eventually she surrenders, accepts his marriage proposal, and moves, with some dread, into his dark, book-filled apartment.
She can't settle in. She's tortured by memories of the bitterly unhappy childhood she spent with her father in a dilapidated house upstate. When she learns devastating new information about that past, Constance's fragile psyche suffers a profound shock. Her marriage, already tottering, threatens to collapse completely. Frightened, desperate and alone, Constance makes a disastrous decision, then looks on as her world rapidly falls apart. Her only consolation, as the city swelters in an interminable heat wave, is the friendship of Sidney's son Howard, a strange, delicate child, not unlike Constance herself.
The story of a marriage in crisis and a family haunted by trauma, Constance is also a tale of resilience and loyalty, and of the moral inspiration that can lead even the most lost of souls back to the light.
"Patrick McGrath is one of the age's most elegantly accomplished divers into the human psyche, and in his new novel he brings us another resonant sounding from that deep well. Constance is an intricate, multi-layered and, in the end, surprisingly tender work from a master writer." John Banville
Sidney Klein is a professor of poetry, a single father with a poor marital record, when he encounters the young, enigmatic Constance Schuyler at a literary party in 1960s Manhattan. A few weeks later, he proposes marriage, and Constance accepts, moving into his dark, book-filled apartment.
But the bride is unhappy, tormented by a bitter past. She has a troubled relationship with her father, a retired doctor upstate, and is desperate for the emotional security Sidney can't fully provide. Perhaps she's made a mistake in marrying him. And then comes a devastating revelation, further jeopardizing the relationship. Sidney can only watch and wait, doubting his own moral strength, as Constance becomes reckless and self-destructive, unhelped by the arrival of her dissolute younger sister.
But Constance has formed an unlikely alliance with her small stepson, and he may be the only one who can help them now. Constance is the story of one family, haunted by a trauma kept secret for decades. It is also the portrait of a marriage under threat, and the allegiance and the courage that can lead us to the light.
About the Author
Patrick McGrath is the author of several critically acclaimed novels, including Asylum, Martha Peake, Port Mungo, Trauma, and Spider, adapted into a 2002 David Cronenberg film. Born in London, McGrath lives in New York.