Constance

Patrick McGrath, Author
Patrick McGrath. Bloomsbury, $24 (240p) ISBN 978-1-60819-943-3
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In his new novel (after Trauma), McGrath demonstrates the power of his craft with a thoroughly unlikable protagonist, hell bent on not only her own destruction but also that of everyone around her, escalating a pattern of familial dysfunction that she has the power to stop, yet chooses not to. Hidden motivations cause Constance Schuyler to interfere in her sister Iris’s love life and marry Sidney Klein, an older man. As the newly wed Kleins learn a dark secret about Constance’s father, Constance’s destructive tendencies blossom into full-blown revenge. Parts of the novel are set in 1960s Manhattan, with the dark heart taking place upstate at Ravenswood, the rotting house where Constance and Iris grew up. The story, told in present tense, sometimes by Constance, sometimes by Sidney, reveals Constance as an unreliable, unlikable narrator, but a character more infuriating than tragic, and it’s difficult to understand Sidney’s motivations for wanting to save her; she doesn’t seem worth saving. Despite McGrath’s demonstrable skill, the reader will be left with mild irritation rather than catharsis. Agent: Rogers, Coleridge & White (U.K.). (Apr.)
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