CONSTANCE by Patrick McGrath


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Unhappy families being unhappy in their own way...again.         

McGrath’s hyperanalytical approach to traumatic family relationships runs deep. Constance Schuyler, a cool, iconic blonde in a Hitchcock-ian mold, lives in New York. At a literary party, she meets her future husband, Sidney Klein, 20 years her senior and an intellectual professor. He’s smart and analytical, and it doesn’t take him long to learn of Constance’s scarred relationship with her father, Morgan Schuyler, a doctor who lives up the Hudson in a quirky and depressing home called Ravenswood. (Think Manderley.) Although Constance seems to hate her father and tries to get away from him, her marriage to Sidney suggests she’s looking for a father replacement (repetition compulsion complex, she wonders?). Constance’s kid sister also comes to New York and gets involved with cocktail pianist Eddie Castrol. Iris is much more comfortable with her sexuality than Constance, but the older sister breaks up the relationship, leaving Iris to moon about and feel sorry for herself. Then, over one Christmas vacation, Morgan drops a bombshell—he’s not really Constance’s father. Her real father is the husband of the housekeeper, and he committed suicide—or perhaps was thrown under a train—shortly before Constance was born. In another strange psychological and erotic twist, Constance turns to Eddie for a brief but intense sexual relationship. Throughout the novel, McGrath moves us from Constance’s to Sidney’s point of view, sometimes lurching the novel forward by having them use the same words to characterize what's happening in their lives.

A novel of fierce rages and great tenderness, exhausting in its emotional intensity.

Pub Date: April 2nd, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-60819-943-3
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 2013


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