Alex and Jonathan's marriage is enhanced by the birth of their daughter, Joanna, but a visitor from Jonathan's past unlocks the truth about his father, Charles, and a devastating legacy of obsession, desire, betrayal and revenge. Against all rational thinking, Charles's obsession with Sophie consumes him utterly, throwing his solitary, well-ordered life into turmoil. His obsession lasts a lifetime and destroys a family. Fearing for the darkness overhanging Joanna's life, Alex is compelled to hear Charles's story and to attempt to make reparation for the past, heal old wounds, and forgive dark sins.
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As well as its strong storyline, A RATIONAL MAN is concerned with issues of mystery and faith and what happens when these are challenged and undermined.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
from chapter 1: My first mistake was thinking I knew Jonathan; my second was loving him too much. I've a friend who used to call him my 'mystery man' because he kept himself to himself. Nothing wrong in that. He'd had an odd childhood, living in that great big house with an embittered mother and a father incapable of hiding his distaste for his marriage. Jonathan had only told me the bare facts, but I had a pretty vivid picture of the people and the house with its tall rooms, its ceilings encrusted with plaster and windows draped with velvet. The only members of Jonathan's family at our wedding were his Aunt Helen and her two sons...The first time I met his Aunt Helen was just after we'd decided to get married. Jonathan took me to meet her and she gave us tea in fluted bone china cups garlanded with roses, and served chocolate sponge on matching plates with real linen napkins and silver-plated cake forks. It seemed a bit over the top for a terraced cottage in Barnet. I talked about the wedding, about how many of my family there'd be, how few of theirs, and saw her glance at Jonathan as if she'd forgotten her lines and needed prompting. I started to gush, prattling on about Jonathan's father, about what a shame it was he hadn't lived to see his son get a first at Cambridge. Mopping chocolate icing from his fingers, Jonathan said, "He'd probably say I was squandering it, teaching." "You're too hard on him." Turning to me, his aunt said, "It wasn't his fault. He worked his way up the hard way; it was all he knew. He didn't understand about Jonathan and his books. That's not a crime, is it?"... Straightening her back she seemed to come to a decision. "I want to show you something, Alex." Getting up and crossing to the sideboard, she began rummaging in one of the drawers. "Good. I knew it was here. Look." She turned, flourishing an ageing manila envelope. Jonathan shifted in his seat. His toe rucked the corner of the hearthrug. His aunt fumbled with the flap of the envelope and pulled out a yellowed newspaper cutting. The photograph showed the buckled remains of a car twisted round a telegraph pole. According to the headline, the accident had been fatal. There was no text. Jonathan's aunt told me that it was her brother who had died. My mum and dad thought it was morbid, keeping the photograph like that, producing it at such a moment. Still, they liked Jonathan, and they certainly didn't think he was wasting his talents by teaching. Actually, they were quite proud of him, and were over the moon when Joanna was born. Funny that, the way just mentioning her name brings me up in goosebumps. Particularly funny when I was never the sort to go soppy at the sight of a pram. The thing is, Jo's special - because she's mine, I suppose, and Jonathan's. He keeps teasing me because I spend so much time like this, watching her sleep. Regularly at two I put her down for her nap, and sit beside her with a folder-full of work lying open and unlooked at on my lap... What draws me isn't what she is but who she is. A part of me. A part of Jonathan....Look at her, she's dreaming; her lips twitch and the muscles round her eyes clench, and the ground shivers under my feet because in another sense, and equally real, I'm excluded from her. We're separate. I don't know what she's dreaming or what she's thinking, any more than I know what Jonathan dreams or thinks...I think of all the things I can handle, like feeding her and bathing her and crooning her to sleep - and then I think of all the things that are beyond me. The invisible things, the vortex of genes that make her what she is. I want to scoop her up and hug her and keep control, keep the bad things at bay. I sit up abruptly and my file slides off my lap scattering pages of sketches and reams of photocopied text across the floor. A breeze from the window makes the dove mobile above the cot rotate and tinkle. I can hear sparrows scrabbling in the gutter ...I hear a car pull into the drive. Barney starts to bark, and as I run downstairs he skitters across the hall, scrunching the rug and clicking his claws against the parquet. I must look an idiot, answering the door Quasimodo-fashion as I grapple with Barney's collar. I tell him to sit and stay. The stranger on my doorstep laughs at the pantomime. He says, "Hello. You must be Alex." ...I watch Barney out of the corner of my eye. Barney watches me, waiting for my attention to wander. I glance at my visitor and wonder what he wants. He says, "My name's Leonard Prentice. I'm a friend of Jonathan's father." "I see." These days I'm a lot more curious about Jonathan's father..."You'd better come in." I show him into the living room and he perches on the edge of the Chesterfield like a budgie on a hot rail... He says, "I brought you something." With a flourish he produces from a capacious trouser pocket a small package wrapped in blue paper covered with cavorting teddies. I take it but I must seem a bit sceptical because he says, "Well all right, it's really for the baby." Never take sweets from strangers. The paper is smooth and shiny: I run my fingers along the folded seam and think what a fool I am. I've invited a complete stranger into the house and now the three of us are locked together on the inside. The three of us and Barney. Leonard Prentice smiles. "It's okay," he says. "It's just a present, Alex, something I thought she'd like... Jonathan had one just like it, when he was a baby."
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Book Description Random House UK, 1996. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 91792096