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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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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With a host of personality problems, bad memories, repressed urges, and long-standing grudges, Constance Schuyler Klein navigates a crumbling 1960s New York City. Married to professor and author Sidney Klein, whom she resents, idolizes, and compares to her distant and dominating father, Constance also meddles in the affairs of her younger sister even as they reminisce about their mother's tragic death years earlier. News of their father's physical and mental deterioration draws Constance back to the family's home north of the city, where he reveals a long-hidden secret about her past that begins her spiral downward. Haunted by memories of her mother, father, and a couple who had been previously employed by the family, Constance delves into her mysterious past and uncovers a convoluted murder story in which there are no innocent victims. VERDICT Best-selling author -McGrath (The Grotesque) expertly explores and exploits the dark motives and sinister forces surrounding his characters, who are set adrift in a world they cannot comprehend. Working on multiple levels, the novel offers meaningful commentary while combining the sensibilities of Tennessee Williams and an old noir film to create something even more atmospheric, just for the fun of it.-James Coan, SUNY at Oneonta Lib. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
McGrath's (Trauma, 2008) latest elegant and droll gothic novel begins in Manhattan in the early 1960s at the start of a dispiriting slide into decrepitude and chaos. Sidney, a rigorously analytical Englishman and academic, views the wanton demolition of the grand old Pennsylvania Station as a particularly egregious travesty, one that is echoed in the ensuing destruction of a family. The disconsolately divorced father of a sensitive little son, Sidney pounces on fragile and aloof Constance, a young editor, at a book party. They quickly marry, joking uneasily about her being the gazelle, he the lion. But predator-prey relationships are not what they seem in this stealthy melodrama about power struggles, repression, and madness enacted primarily at Constance's childhood home. A drafty, decaying old house on a cliff, Ravenswood faces the Hudson River, which, in all its gray and spangled moods, reflects the doom and mania of Constance's dire battles with her father and her hard-drinking sister. Ravishing in its troubled eroticism, jolting in its lightning-strike illuminations of malignant lies, secrets, and despair, this is one stormy tale.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2010 Booklist