A psychiatrist with his own bedeviling ghosts finds himself irrevocably changed by his interactions with a patient in this philosophical romance from British novelist Vickers (Mr. Golightly’s Holiday, 2004, etc.).
David, who has never resolved his guilt over the accidental death of his older brother as a small child, specializes in treating suicidal patients. His latest, Elizabeth, is slow to open up until she and David discuss the art of Caravaggio. Elizabeth tells him her story in one hours-long session. She was deeply in love with an art scholar, Thomas, who introduced her to Caravaggio years earlier. Elizabeth and Thomas spent one perfect night together, then lost track of each other for years (shades of An Affair to Remember). Elizabeth made an unhappy marriage and bore two children before she and Thomas found each other again and rekindled their love as soulmates. Although Thomas was ever patient and devoted, Elizabeth was unable to move beyond indecision and distrust of her and Thomas’s feelings. While visiting Thomas in Italy, Elizabeth acceded to a summons home from her tyrannical mother-in-law. Thomas had a heart attack and died before she could return to him. She has never forgiven herself. Immediately after hearing Elizabeth’s story, David learns that his own wife, Olivia, whom he does not really like, is having an affair with his best friend, who happens to be married to the woman David loved but dumped for Olivia. Elizabeth checks out of the hospital, but she has opened David’s eyes to the truths in his own life. While in Italy to give a lecture against the indiscriminate use of lobotomies, David sees Elizabeth one last time. His lecture becomes a moving description of Caravaggio’s painting The Supper at Emmaus.
Following in the footsteps of Iris Murdoch, Vickers is concerned with the spiritual dimensions of love and love’s effect on the soul.