Author: William Trevor
First published: 1980
Locale: London and Stone St. Martin, Gloucestershire
Plot: Psychological realism
Time: The 1950's
Julia Ferndale, a plump, forty-seven-year-old widow with a part-time typing job. She lives protected in her mother's charming country home and has romantic illusions about marrying Francis Tyte, fourteen years her junior. Her devout Catholicism gives her a strong sense of compassion for those less fortunate than she. When she realizes that her marriage to Francis is a fraud, she extends this compassion to all of Francis' other victims. In fact, she is the only one who recognizes that Francis is incapable of telling the truth. She is the link between his fantasies, or lies, and his victims.
Francis Tyte, an actor and psychopath. He is thirty-three years old and adept at manipulating everyone for his own purposes. He is immoral, marrying twice for money, prostituting himself with men, and exploiting people, both rich and poor. On a whim, he gets Doris pregnant. Also on a whim, he marries Julia in a Catholic ceremony. On their honeymoon, he absconds with Julia's jewels, which really belong to her mother. He leaves behind him distraught parents, a mistress, a child, Julia's family, his fellow actors, and anyone else who has caught his devious attention.
Mrs. Anstey, Julia's mother. She is the only one who initially senses something wrong with Francis. She does not tell her daughter of her suspicions.
Katherine, Julia's twenty-year-old daughter. She plays a minor role in witnessing her mother's romance, marriage, and shame.
Henrietta, Julia's twenty-three-year-old daughter. She too plays a minor role in witnessing her mother's romance, marriage, and shame.
Doris Smith, Francis Tyte's common-law wife. She is the mother of Joy, the child she had by Francis. She is a sales-woman, an alcoholic, and gullible. Not only does she participate in Francis' fantasies, but she also embellishes them with fantasies of her own. In an alcoholic daze, she disrupts the calm of the old age home where Francis' parents live, intrudes on Julia's life, and ultimately murders Francis' first wife.
Joy, the thirteen-year-old daughter of Doris and Francis. She is on drugs, experienced in sex and violence, and masterful at manipulating her mother and, later, Mrs. Anstey. She provides several comic scenes because of her wild outrageousness.
Father Lavin, the Roman Catholic priest who helps Julia. Secretly in love with Julia, he tries to help her through the ordeals that beset her after the fiasco of the honeymoon, but he is helpless. Rather than lean on him and on prayer, Julia prefers action in resolving the chaos Francis has created in her family's life, Doris and Joy's lives, and the lives of many others.
Susanna Music, a young actress who works with Francis on a television thriller. She becomes another victim of Francis' fantasies when Doris comes to believe that Susanna is responsible for a murder and for Francis' departure from England.