Constance: A Novel

"My name is Constance Schuyler Klein.  The story of my life begins the day I married an Englishman called Sidney Klein and said goodbye forever to Ravenswood and Daddy and all that went before."

So begins Patrick McGrath's new novel, Constance.  Of course, we should mention that the quotation marks in the above quote are ours.  Because McGrath refuses to use any.  Ever.  Throughout the entire book.  Instead, he utilizes the -em dash.  We only mention this because it had a slightly pretentious feel that, on the whole, did nothing to improve the novel.

The story features, as is so fashionable these days, a dysfunctional family.  Told in alternating views between Constance ("She had no moral pole star") and her much older husband Sydney, it's difficult to tell which of the two is more bat-shit crazy emotionally disturbed.  Constance is young, blames all her life problems on her father, and generally goes about ruining whatever good things might come her way.  Sydney is hardly more likable, putting up with Constance's nonsense far too long to garner reader sympathy.

At it's heart, the story tries to be a mystery as DARK FAMILY SECRETS are slowly revealed.

"Two days later came the doctor's shattering revelation, and that's when everything properly went to hell."
Are they shattering revelations?  Perhaps for the characters, not so much for the readers who are busy reading yet another instance of Constance's inexcusable and childish behavior and her husband's resultant agony. Ultimately, nothing excuses Constance and Sidney's behavior and the reader becomes bored with their predictable antics early on.  The ending, of course, resolves the so-called mysteries and tragedies lurking in Constance's family, but there is no resolution for Constance or her beleaguered husband.

Clearly, we were unimpressed.  Our verdict?  Skip it entirely or, if you must, grab it from the library.

Title:  Constance: A Novel
Author:  Patrick McGrath
Publisher:  Bloomsbury USA
Pages:  240
Source:  Our local library

Rating:  3 Stars, at best.


  1. Lack of quotation marks drives me insane. The basic premise you described kind of reminds me of Gone Girl.

  2. Rain,adustbowlstoryApril 30, 2013 at 8:10 AM

    Yes. "Dark family secrets" is a yawn.

  3. It's getting rather gimmck-y isn't it?

  4. At least Gone Girl had me laughing with their 'revenge' on each other....this novel doesn't even have that going for it. Ugh.

  5. Oh for crying out loud, every book has dark family secrets. I'm starting to feel like I'm the freak because I don't have any!!! I dare an author out there to show me something new. Just try please, I'd be ever so thankful.

  6. Right????? Hate the copy-cat book phenomenon....grrrr.

  7. Really, the lack of quotation marks were not a deal-killer. I was okay with it, just thought it was pretentious, lol. The deal-killer was the same ol' same ol' plot. Nothing was a surprise and the writing wasn't good enough to overcome it. Get it from the library, that way if it doesn't wow you, you're not out any precious book money, ha.

  8. I love Patrick McGrath and this makes me sad. If someone is interested in reading his work, I would highly recommend Asylum. It was so darn Gothicy good.

  9. THANK YOU for making the suggestion - I was hoping someone would. I don't give up on authors that easily.


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