The World in the Evening by Christopher Isherwood
New York : Random House, 1954. First American edition. Hardcover. 301 pages ; 21 cm. $3.50 dust jacket. Very good copy; no underlines or markings within the pages. Satisfaction guaranteed!
The World in the Evening; a novel by CHRISTOPHER ISHERWOOD
This is the story of a turning-point in a man's life; one of those mysterious occasions on which his subconscious will dramatically intervene, warning him to stop, take a look at himself, and see what his actions have made of him.
Stephen Monk is a wealthy AngloAmerican arrested adolescent of thirty-six, who finds his wife Jane making love to another man at •a Hollywood party. Characteristically he runs away from the situation to take refuge at his birthplace, a village near Philadelphia, with Sarah Pennington, the Quaker lady who has been his foster-mother. But he finds no security there, and is about to continue his flight when a subconsciously willed accident breaks his thigh and imprisons him in a plaster cast for the next ten weeks During these weeks, Stephen reads through the letters of his first wife, Elizabeth Rydal. a British novelist now dead, authoress of The World in the Evening. And, while doing this, he relives his early years, his marriage with Elizabeth, their life together in England, Austria and France, and their travels around the world. For the first time, he faces up to his shameful betrayals of Elizabeth —with Michael Drummond, their 'adopted son,' and with Jane herself. He accepts his share of responsibility for the failure of his second marriage.
The live people around Stephen's sickbed—Sarah, Gerda, the German refugee, Dr. Kennedy and his friend Bob— are less real to him than the memory of Elizabeth. It is they who seem ghostlike, for each one of them embodies certain aspects of the past. Yet, in his relations with them, Stephen shows the first signs of his development into a mature adult. He learns to see the greatness behind Sarah's dowdy, fussy, exasperating exterior, and the true greatness of Elizabeth, which was not in her writing.
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