HALF LIGHT by Frances Hegarty


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 Hegarty (aka Frances Fyfield) follows The Playroom (1991), her first novel under her own name, with another psychological study of depersonalizing imprisonment--although this time the prisoner is an adult. Elisabeth Young is a restorer of old master paintings. Beautiful and talented, she has an attractive lover, barrister Francis Thurloe, who fills her ``with an almost crazy happiness''; but she moves through London without casting a shadow. Her small-time dealer friend Annie Macalpine takes advantage of her lack of self-assertiveness to hold out on her restoring fees; her upstairs neighbor Enid Daley, despising Elisabeth every time she hears water draining from her bathtub, wishes she were gone. And then, one lowering Sunday, she is- -importuned by crippled, one-eyed Thomas Milton to restore three canvases in the opulent house that imperceptibly becomes her prison. Elisabeth's habits of self-effacement before her work make her the perfect captive, a beautiful twin to Thomas's ugly sister Maria, whose servility swings back and forth between worship and resentment. As Elisabeth, her personality merging with that of a madonna she's restoring, acquiesces more and more deeply in the way Thomas has made her part of his collection, Francis and Annie, having already fallen reflexively into bed, go hunting for her--Francis by visiting the bleak mining town she grew up in, Annie by going through her letters and a surprising cache of nude photos of herself--both unaware how explosive their discovery of her might turn out to be. No one, not even Ruth Rendell, can conjure more threats from the ordinary behavior of ordinary people than Hegarty. This pale, starkly understated tale runs over you like one long shiver.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-671-78967-8
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Pocket
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1993