This disturbingly desultory novel is about worldly success (and failure), beauty, betrayal, greed, ambition and the corrosive influence of the past.
It is certainly not about love. All the principal characters seem for most of the time heartless – and unlovable. The heroine, Alice Keach, is particularly charmless. For reasons we can only guess at, she is a woman adrift. She suffers from ‘dark terrors’ and ‘a profound sense of dislodgement and dislocation’. She is also – and this perhaps is her fatal flaw – extraordinarily pretty. Not until the final desperate scene did she begin to engage my heart.
Yet the story of her life from 1904 to the early 1930s makes utterly gripping reading. After only a few pages, she has abandoned her family, become pregnant, and stolen money from the Lutheran pastor who, partly out of kindness, married her. Soon she will go on the