Constance: A Novel by Patrick McGrath

3 of 3
240 pages; Bloomsbury USA
Typically, a ghost story involves the dead, not the living. But Constance Schulyer Klein is no ordinary ghost: She's the live, flesh-and-blood protagonist at the center of a gripping, painful family saga. Raised by her cold, distant father, a widower, she moves to New York City to remake a life away from her family. She finds a job in publishing, meets an older professor, Sydney Klein, and marries him. On the surface, she has accomplished everything she intended to: She is her own person, successful in ways her father led her to believe she never could be. But as Sydney quickly finds, beneath her poised façade, Constance barely exists. Indeed, the only constant thing about Constance is her absence. She exists only to be against things—against her father and against her childhood. When her father reveals a family secret, she spirals away from the life she has gripped so tenuously. "I suddenly saw ... Constance as the old ghost," Sydney recalls. "The bitterness was eating away at not just her mind but her face, her body, her chattering lips, the very fiber of her soul. Soon it would all be gone." Patrick McGrath's story of a woman struggling to save herself from nonexistence is told with clear-sighted compassion. As Constance slips in and out of reality, McGrath never once loses his hold on her as a character—her anguish, her mania and her charm.
— Nathalie Gorman