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Patrick McGrath is the author of a short story collection, Blood and Water and Other Tales, and six previous novels including Spider, Asylum, Martha Peake and Port Mungo. His most recent book was Ghost Town, a volume of novellas about New York. Spider was made into a film in 2002 by acclaimed director David Cronenberg.
Patrick McGrath lives in London and New York.
Photgraph © Marion Ettlinger
It is January, 1947. The war has been over for two years. London's in ruins, there's nothing to eat, and it's the coldest winter in living memory. To make matters worse, one of the great stage actors of the day, Charlie Grice, has suddenly died. His wife Joan, the wardrobe mistress, is prostrate with grief. She's persuaded to attend a benefit performance of his last play, and watch an understudy in Charlie's role. She dreads it. But when the actor appears onstage, the grieving widow is startled to see that behind the new man's eyes burns the living spirit of her husband. Later, backstage, she meets this actor, and yes, Charlie's coming through. There's no doubt in her mind. She's giddy with elation. She befriends the young actor. She starts to give him Charlie's clothes. The friendship soon becomes a love affair, Joan all the while seeing within the understudy the living ghost of her husband. Then one night, by chance, as she goes through Charlie's wardrobe, she uncovers his horrifying secret. She's devastated. For the war's not over, after all, and the wardrobe mistress finds herself plunged into a dark new world of violence, intrigue and heartbreak.
The aloof and enigmatic Constance Schuyler lives alone in Manhattan when she meets Sidney Klein, a professor of poetry twenty years her senior, at a literary party. A few weeks later, he proposes marriage and Constance accepts, moving into his dark, book-filled apartment. But Constance is tortured by a bitter past. When her father makes a devastating revelation, Constance's fragile psyche suffers a profound shock. Her marriage, already tottering, threatens to collapse completely. Sidney can only watch and wait, doubting his own moral strength. Constance's consolation is the friendship of Sidney's boy Howard, a strange, delicate child, not unlike Constance herself...
Shortlisted for the Costa Novel Award 2008.Costa Book Awards 2008 Judges' comment: "A riveting story about what makes us who we are by a truly accomplished novelist."