In Patrick McGrath’s 2005 novella Ground Zero, a psychoanalyst treats a male client who has lumbered into what she is convinced is an unsuitable liaison. Refusing to believe he might be happy with Kim Lee (‘I heard the Chinese prostitute in every word he uttered’), she furiously tries to destroy the relationship, which grows in the immediate aftermath of the attacks of 2001. She crosses a line, piqued by her own frail pride.
Ground Zero is a despatch from a sour, grieving Manhattan, a city in shock. In his new novel, Trauma, McGrath takes the same elements but produces an engrossingly modulated novel about denial. This time the shrink is male: Charlie specialises in trauma, having developed his skills working with Vietnam veterans.