The reconstruction of a childhood trauma from conflicting points of view provides the riveting draw in English novelist Hart’s latest dire page-turner (The Stillest Day, 1998, etc.).
Between visits by neurotic and wealthy patients, Hart’s stiff, sober-toned psychiatrist-narrator Jack Harrington (reminiscent of the chilly, nameless doctor in her explosive 1991 debut novel about obsession, Damage), once indifferently married and good at keeping secrets, quietly probes his curiously intimate and perhaps unhealthy attachment to his tony, high-society sister Kate. (The two were raised by a London uncle when their mother died and their father moved to America.) A laconic redhead whose beauty is described as Old School (think Nicole Kidman), Kate is contemplating a second marriage—to rich scion of the London haute juiverie Harold Abst—a good catch, since he resides in Eaton Square. But Kate, evidently, is unstable, so much so that brother Jack has sacrificed his adulthood (manhood?) in keeping her from “sinking.” What is the parental drama involving their childhood estate at Malamore, Ireland, that the siblings continue to reenact and that involves dancing silently naked together? Brisk, revelatory dialogue (written as if for the screen) and reckless hints at incestuous squeezing keep the reader pushing forward while at the same time being exasperated by dinner-party platitudes that, if they’re intended to make Jack sound wise, don’t succeed (“Words, when released, fly sometimes like predatory birds toward their victims”). As if she’s aiming to reveal her true creative torch-springs, Hart supplies abundant over-the-couch confessions and snatched, urbane conversations. Still, to her credit, she also attempts to examine the compelling facets of a narrative that needs to step carefully, there being so much that’s shifting and unreliable amid the truth.
A bony, hasty affair, though with a therapeutic resolution that will bring satisfaction to Hart fans.