Antonia Byatt

, /10

Antonia Byatt (Britain, 1936)

"The Virgin in the Garden" (1978) +

synopsis forthcoming

In "Still-Life (1985) Byatt's didactic tone takes over, reducing the novel to a catalog of pretty texts and to a narcissistic display of erudition. This is the second part of the tetralogy. Its central theme is the contrast between two sisters, one who has settled into the role of the housewife (and is punished with a cruel death for it) and the other one who enjoys a promiscuous life in a world of men. The plot is relatively simple but is highjacked by erudite and baroque meditations that mix poetry, painting and even science.

Alexander, Daniel and Frederica are middle-aged friends who meet at a museum. Will sent a postcard from Africa to Frederica that she interprets as a message for Daniel.

A flashback shows Daniel in the 1950s, when he is 24, a curate. Daniel's younger wife Stephanie is pregnant. She, who had been awarded valuable prizes, dropped out of academia to become a full-time housewife. Her brother Marcus lives with them after he suffered a nervous breakdown, probably caused by his father's violent temper. Stephanie's younger sister Frederica, also a brilliant student like Stephanie used to bem announces to Stephanie and Daniel that she won a scholarship to study at the same prestigious university where Stephanie once studied.` Frederica cannot wait to get out of his parents' home. Short-term she has found a job as a mother's helper and English teacher for a French family. Daniel's mother, a widow, comes to visit them. On Christmas day they are all joined by Stephanie's parents, Bill and Winifred. Bill dislikes Daniel and religion in general. The family reunion is awkward and Daniel is obviously in a bad mood. Frederica senses that he doesn't like her, but she is happy that she found a way to get out. She travels to France and joins the French family. She is quite useless as a nanny, but the family kindly takes her on a theater where she meets Wilkie, a student of psychology who took her virginity. Wilkie is with his friend Alexander, the man Frederica really loves. Alexander is a writer and a friend of her father. Alexander had in fact wanted her but she had humiliated him by sleeping with his best friend (for no other reason than to lose her virginity). Alexander is trying to write a play for his friend Matthew Crowe who bought a building and turned it into a place for visiting artists. Alexander is distracted by his obsession: the friendship between Gaugin and Van Gogh. Wilkie visits Frederica's host family with his girlfriend Caroline and becomes a family friend. Frederica joins friends at the beach: Lady Roswe, Anthea, Matthew Crowe, Wilkie, Caroline and Alexander, the philospher Vincent and the poet Jeremy. Frederica corners Alexander who is annoyed by her insistence. They discuss his play about Van Gogh. Meanwhile, back home Stephanie has given birth to a boy, William. Marcus and her mother-in-law were home when it started, but they were completely useless, not even capable of informing Daniel. The birth is described in excruciating and almost hallucinated details. Stephanie is uneasy with all the people who come to visit and to touch her baby: her own mother, her brother, the silly mother-in-law, etc; mostly a display of failed family relationships. The chapter "Birth" ends with the writer addressing directly the reader with a confused meditation on colors as they pertain to the yet unformed vision of a new born and to the art of Van Gogh. Frederica then starts school at the prestigious university where she is one of the few females. She has sex with an experienced medical student, and then enjoys the courtship of the aristrocratic Freddie. Her life becomes more and more promiscuous and selfish. She befriends Alan (who is from a working class family) and Tony (who pretends to be but is actually from an aristocratic family), both socialist-leaning and well introduced in the literary circles. Meanwhile Daniel is given a new deacon by the Church, Gideon. He and his wife Clemency, who have adopted three children from all over the world, invite Stephanie's family to dinner. Stephanie tells him that she does not consider herself a Christian, but Gideon nonetheless wants to be her friend. She confesses that she misses teaching. Daniel is approached by an unhappy young man, Gerry, who has been cleared of the atrocious murder of his own baby murder but is nonetheless expelled from civilized society. His wife is a monster who killed the baby because she didn't let her sleep. He is now afraid that she is going to be released, while desperate about his own future in a society that views him as an accomplice. Back home Stephanie is pressured to take a job at the library and leave William with Daniel's mom and her brother Marcus, but the two dislike each other and Stephanie is rightly uncomfortable leaving the child with them.
To flee Daniel's mom, Marcus moves back with his parents. Marcus takes a humble job at the hospital. He attends one of Gideon's weekend retreats for young people during which he is befriended by Jacqueline and witnesses Ruth's unhappiness at having a stepmother.
Alexander, now 37, rents a room in the house of his best friend Thomas, who is married with the diligent Elinor and has three children, but has had an affair with Anthea that required an abortion and humiliated the wife. Elinor offers herself to Alexander not so much to take her revenge on Thomas but to feel young and beautiful again.
Frederica's life is busy with all the activities that the boys concoct for her. Owen keeps proposing to her. After much sexual experimenting, she finally falls in love. The poet Hugh introduces her to a teacher of poetry, Raphael, a German Jew and another erudite older man like Alexander. She approaches him to write an interview for the magazine run by Alan and Tony, but Raphael breaks her heart when he first pretends not to remember her and then sends her a nasty note of disapproval for her article.
Both Stephanie and Elinor give birth, Stephanie has a daughter with a facial defact, Mary. Elinor has a healthy boy, Simon. She confesses to Alexander that she is not sure who is the father and does not want to know. She is happy that way. Thomas seems to be happy too, whether he guesses or not. Alexander is embarrassed because he is treated like a member of the family, taking care of their three children when the couple is at the hospital. Meanwhile Alexander has completed his play` about Van Gogh.
Frederica spends a day with Nigel but then finally Raphael kisses her. She asks him to supervise her ambitious thesis on Milton but he refuses claiming that she needs a theologian. She's attracted to Nigel who is looking for a wife to manage the house he has inherited.
Marcus studies math and plants, and spends playful time with Jacqueline and Ruth. After a funny incident with the children, Daniel's mom has to go to the hospital, and on the way out tells Stephanie that she didn't feel welcome. Alex's play premieres and most critics dislike it. In particular, Frederica has the bad idea of introducing Alex and Raphael. Raphael tells Alex how much he dislikes the play. Alex is there with his girlfriend Martina, but now Frederica feels her love for Alex to come back, replacing her crush on the pompous Raphael.
Frederica travels to London for a job interview. She obtains the job at a prestigious magazine and sleeps with the confident businessman Nigel.
Suddenly accusations fly that Gideon has been sexually molesting his young pupils. Stephanie saw him half naked with Ruth. Another woman thinks that he molested her daughter. Stephanie dies electrocuted by her refrigerator while she's trying to save a bird. Marcus is the only witness but can't help. After the funeral Daniel's mood gets worse: he hits Gideon when he comes to pray for Stephanie. Daniel leaves his children Will and Mary with his parents and takes off for a journey with no destination, becoming a filthy tramp. After a while he shows up at Alexander's place. Meanwhile Frederica gives herself to the very non-academic Nigel, basically betraying her own dreams.

"Possession" (1990) ++ is a romantic and post-modern novel. It recycles the style of the romance while introducing modern techniques and preserving the sentimental core. The most interesting post-modern strategy is perhaps the way the author enters the tale. The author is watching over her characters like a goddess, and knows things that they don't know. The "not knowing" turns out to be the most romantic element of all.
Byatt also injects references to modern morality (feminism, lesbian love, unmarried partnerships) that contrast with and enhance the moral torments of the past.
And, finally, there is the puzzle, the enigma, the mystery to be solved, each solution leading to a new mystery. And the protagonists are willing to sacrifice any moral principles in order to "know". Which makes the "not knowing" even more mythical.

Roland Michell is a scholar who is researching the life and times of a dead poet, Randolph Ash. In a library, Roland stumbles on two letters that Ash was writing to a woman, letters that nobody had ever found before. Roland is an assistant to professor Blackadder, one of the two world's authorities on Ash, the other one being Blackadder's rival Mortimer Cropper. Roland is genuinely thrilled by the discovery of the letters, which keeps to himself out of a mixture of curiosity and ambition.
At home he finds his long-time partner and housemate Val in a depressed and frustrated mood.
Roland tells Blackadder about some hidden notes he found in Ash's copy of Vico, but does not mention the letters. On the other hand, Roland manages to find out who the woman was: Christabel LaMotte, a failed poetess whose epic poem has been rediscovered by feminists who read it as an account of sexual independence. It turns out that his successful colleague Fergus has had a brief affair with an expert in LaMotte, Maud Bailey, and directs Roland to her. It turns out that Maud is a descendant of Christabel and owns the diary of the woman who lived with Christabel for several years, Blanche Glover, generally considered her lover. In that diary, Roland finds references to a man who was flirting with Christabel, and to letters that Christabel was receiving. In need of help, Roland tells Maud about the letters and Maud immediately realizes that the letters would represent a scholarly scoop; but Roland protests that his motive is not career.
Maud and Roland become accomplices and travel to the house inhabited by Christabel. The owner, George Bailey, a distant relative of Maud, is suspicious, but lets them see Christabel's room, the first visitors in almost a century. They find a whole bundle of letters that prove Roland's theory: there was a secret affair between the two poets. Their curiosity is now extreme, but George refuses to hand over the letters: while unaware of the commercial value, and unaware that at least two distinguished scholars (Blackadder and Cropper) would also like to see them, George wants to think it over out of respect for the dead.
Cropper, an abusive and wealthy American, is in England when George finally grants his permission to Maud and Roland to study the letters. Cropper overhears the name "Christabel LaMotte" spoken among his British colleagues. Maud and Roland carry out their inspection of Christabel's letters over several days. This provides Roland with some welcome respite from the relationship with an ever more unhappy Val, while creating two personal problems for Maud: Fergus has heard of their joint research and is becoming jealous; Maud's best friend in feminist studies, and probably lover, Leonore (also an American), who is about to present a paper on Christabel's lesbian sexuality, is unaware of these letters, which prove her theory wrong.
As they read the letters, Maud and Roland come to realize that Christabel followed Ash on a business trip. Blanche committed suicide around this time. On the other hand, Ash was still writing affectionate letters to his wife Ellen, pretending that everything was normal.
In the meantime, the similarity with the present increases by the day: Leonore is to Maud what Blanche was to Christabel, and Val is to Roland what Ellen was to Ash.
Maud visits Beatrice, a colleague of Roland who spent 25 years studying the letters of Ash's wife Ellen. Maud learns that Blanche wrote to and saw Ellen: those simple letters hide a tragedy in the making.
Fergus, annoyed and resentful that Maud ignores him, begins to harass her.
Maud's and Roland's research is slowly but steadily unveiling a puzzle, bringing to life people who had for long been only names.
Maud and Roland decide to study Ash's and Christabel's poems for possible clues about what happened, and they have to do so in secret, in order to escape Fergus' curiosity. The two young scholars retrace Ash's steps to a village, looking for a clue that Christabel joined him there. She reads Cropper's cold analysis of Ash, and he reads Leonore's Freudian analysis of Christabel. Ash wrote letters to his wife Ellen from that location: nothing in the letters betrays a love affair or the slightest unhappiness. Yet, Roland becomes more and more convinced that Christabel was there, and Maud even recognizes the landscape of Christabel's poem.
As they continue there research, Maud and Roland become more and more intimate, even sharing the unpleasant truths of their love lives.
Finally, the novel flashes back in time and narrates Ash's and Christabel's love encounter, which is reflected in the woman's poem.
In the meantime, Fergus has sensed that Maud and Roland are on a secret mission and, involves Cropper.
Maud is now investigating Blanche's suicide, or, better, where Christabel might have been at the time (there is a full year of absence to account for). Leonore arrives, unexpected, and embarrasses Maud with her sexual innuendos (to which Maud replies that she's happy with celibacy), but also brings her an important new discovery: a letter from a French cousin of Christabel, relating how Christabel traveled to France that fateful summer.
Cropper tracks down George and reveals to him the commercial value of the letters. George, whose wife is ill and could benefit from money, gets furious at Maud, who never mentioned the monetary aspect, and Leonore witnesses the scene without understanding the cause. George also hires an attorney, who contacts Blackadder to get a fair evaluation of the letters. Blackadder realizes that these letters are the reason for Roland's disappearance and feels betrayed.
Roland and Maud are conspirators in danger of being captured, but they are still one step ahead of the posse. They decide to lie to their respective partners (Val and Leonore) and secretely elope to France. They share more than a professional ambition: they share an idea of celibate life.
The following day they are given a photocopy of the journal kept by Christabel's cousin Sabine, a naive and inexperienced creature who admired the independence of her British relative. The journal reveals that Christabel was pregnant and, eventually, disposed of the baby in a mysterious way. Sabine's diary ends without any further information on the child.
In the meantime, both Cropper and Blackadder, the arch-rivals, begin researching the connection between Ash and Christabel, and they both stumble on the account of a medium, Hella Lees, whom Ash accused of cheating at a seance. Blackadder knows that Cropper has the advantage of money, and thus launches a patriotic campaign to keep the papers in Britain. Leonore, while shocked to learn that her lesbian role-model had a male lover, decides to help Blackadder and, having figured it out, tells him where Maud most likely is. Now everybody wants to find Maud.
Now Val, who already has a new lover, an attorney, realizes that maybe Roland didn't just run away for Maud.
Maud and Roland see Blackadder and Leonore arrive at the village, and decide to go back home. Cropper also arrives and meets his rival. The three hunters have dinner together, wondering what Maud and Roland found out about the child.
Maud and Roland have not found out anything. Roland, penniless, has lost his woman and his job, and lives at Maud's place. Surprisingly, it is Val's new boyfriend, Euan, who discovers something of importance to them: a piece of paper signed by Christabel that leaves Maud the legitimate owner of the letters.
Maud is alerted that Cropper plans to unearth Ash's grave to check the contents of a box that was buried with him. Maud, Roland and Euan decide to mobilize against Cropper.
Roland is quite depressed: this was "his" discovery, but now it has become everybody's, and particularly Maud's, who stands to benefit in terms of both money and career, while he has lost everything.
A flashback narrates the last days of Ash's life, and it's from the viewpoint of his wife Ellen, who is at his deathbed. She receives a letter from Christabel, who has learned of Ash's illness. Christabel encloses a letter for Ash, but Ellen decides not to deliver it, knowing that it may contain the truth about the child (truth that Christabel had kept from Ash). Ellen had wants her husband to die in peace, and the past to be buried forever.
Roland visits Val's apartment and finds three letters addressed to him by three universities offering him important posts. Suddenly, his life appears to be successful. His mind freed of the paranoia of failure, Roland begings to write poetry.
Euan, Val, Roland, Maud and Blackadder meet to decide how to stop Cropper. During a scene worthy of Halloween, the group descends on Cropper as he has just dug up the box, while a storm is raging in the woods. Captors and captive manage to get back to the inn, where they are united by the curiosity to look inside the box. There they find Christabel's unopened last letter. The letter reveals that a daughter was born, and she was raised by Christabel's sister. Maud descends from that illegitimate child, which is from Ash and Christabel: she is not only the legitimate owner of the letters, but of the entire story.
Roland and Maud finally make love.
A postscript adds a piece of the story that nobody will ever know: Ash found out about his daughter, and went to visit her, and even gave her a message for her "aunt" (Christabel), but the child forgot and the message was never delivered: Christabel never learned that Ash knew.
(Translation by/ Tradotto da Roberta Campani)

Possessione (1990) è un romanzo romantico e post-moderno. Antonia Byatt ricicla lo stile del romanzo mentre al tempo stesso introduce tecniche (narrative) moderne e questo conservando il nucleo sentimentale. Forse, la strategia post-moderna più interessante qui esemplificata è il modo in cui l ’autore stesso entra nel racconto. L’autore si pone ad osservare e curare i propri personaggi come una dea, sa di loro cose che loro stessi non sanno. Il "non sapere" risulta essere l’elemento più romantico di tutti. La Byatt include anche riferimenti alla morale moderna (femminismo, amore tra lesbiche, concubinato di coppie non sposate) che contrastano con i tormenti morali del passato. Per finire c’è il puzzle, l’enigma, il mistero da risolvere, ogni soluzione poi rimanda a un nuovo enigma. I protagonisti sono disposti a sacrificare qualsiasi principio morale per "sapere"; cosa che rende il "non sapere" ancor più mitico. Roland Michell è uno studioso che ricerca la vita e i tempi in cui visse un poeta morto. Randolph Ash. In biblioteca, Rolan si imbatte in due lettere che Ash stava scrivento a una donna, lettere che nessuno aveva scovato prima di lui. Roland è l’assistente del professor Blackadder, uno tra i due più autorevoli conoscitori di Ash. Il rivale di Blackadder è Mortimer Cropper. Roland è genuinamente eccitato dalla scoperta delle due lettere, cosa che mantiene segreta per se stesso per un misto di curiosità e ambizione. A casa trova la sua compagna di diversi anni e coinquilina Val in uno stato di depressione e frustrazione. Roland racconta a Blackadder di alcune note nascoste che lui ha trovato nella copia di Vico che Ash possedeva, ma non fa menzione delle lettere. D’ altro canto, Roland riesce a scoprire chi era la donna: Christabel LaMotte, una poetessa mancata il cui poema epico era stato riscoperto da alcune femministe che lo hanno letto come un resoconto o testimonianza dell’ indipendenza sessuale. Risulta poi che il suo collega di successo, Fergus, ha avuto una storia con un’esperta di LaMotte, tale Maud Bailey. Fergus manda Roland da lei. Risulta quindi che Maud è una discendente di Christabel e possiede il diario della donne che visse per diversi anni con Christabel: Blanche Glover, che si ritiene fosse la sua amante. In quel diario, Rolan trova dei riferimenti a un uomo che corteggiava Christabel e del quale lei riceveva le lettere. Avendo bisogno di aiuto, Roland racconta a Maud delle lettere e Maud immediatamente capisce che tale scoperta sarebbe uno scoop accademico; Roland protesta sostenendo che la sua motivazione non è la carriera. Maud e Roland diventano complici e vanno a visitare la casa dove visse Christabel. Il proprietario, George Bailey, un lontano parente di maud, è sospettoso, ma permette loro di vedere la camera di Christabel: sono i primi a visitarla dopo quasi un secolo. Trovano un pacchetto intero di lettere che prova la teoria di Roland: i due poeti avevano una relazione segreta. La curiosità dei due ricercatori tocca ora il suo apice, ma George rifiuta di dar loro le lettere – è inconsapevole del valore commerciale delle lettere e anche dell’esistenza di due noti studiosi (Blackadder e Cropper) che sarebbero anche interessati a vederle: egli vuole riflettere per sincero rispetto nei confronti dei defunti. Cropper, un americano benestante e arrogante, è in Inghilterra proprio quando George permette infine a Maud e Rolan di studiare le lettere. Cropper sente per caso il nome "Christabel LaMotte" nelle conversazioni tra i suoi colleghi britannici. Maud e Roland approfondiscono lo studio delle lettere per parecchi giorni. Questo da a Roland un sollievo benvenuto dalla relazione con una Val sempre più infelice, mentre si creano due problemi personali per Maud: Fergus ha saputo della loro ricerca congiunta e si ingelosisce; mentre la migliore amica di Maud, in studi femministi, e probabilmente anche amante, Leonore (anche americana), che sta per presentare un lavoro sulla sessualità lesbica di Christabel, non sa di queste lettere che proverebbero errata la sua teoria. Mentre avanzano nella lettura delle lettere, Maud e Roland, capiscono che Christabel ha seguito Ash in un viaggio d’affari. Blanche si è suicidata più o meno nello stesso periodo. D’altro canto, Ash stava ancora scrivendo lettere affettuose alla moglie Ellen, facendo finta che tutto fosse normale. Nel frattempo, la somiglianza cresce giorno per giorno: Leonore è per Maud ciò che Blanche era per Christabel, e Val è per Roland ciò che Ellen era per Ash. Maud va in visita da Beatrice, una collega di Roland che ha passato 25 anni a studiare le lettere di Ellen la moglie di Ash. Maud scopre così che Blanche scriveva a Ellen e che si vedevano: quelle semplici lettere nascondono quindi una tragedia nel suo svolgersi. Fergus, disturbato e risentito del fatto che Maudo lo ignori, inizia a importunarla. La ricerca di Maud e Roland lentamente ma stabilmente sta svelando un puzzle, sta portando in vita persone che per molto tempo erano state solo nomi. Maud e Roland decidono di studiare le poesie di Ash e Christabel per scovare eventuali indizi di quanto accadde, devono agire in segretezza per evitare la curiosità di Fergus. I due giovani studiosi trovano le tracce di Ash in un villaggio, cercando indizi che Christabel l’abbia raggiunto là. Lei legge la fredda analisi che Cropper ha fatto di Ash, e lui legge l’analisi freudiana che Leonore ha fatto di Christabel. Ash scriveva lettere a sua moglie Ellen da quel luogo: nulla nelle lettere tradisce una storia d’amore né la minima inifelicità. Ciònonostante Roland si convince sempre più che Christabel è stata lì, e Maud addirittura riconosce il paesaggio del poema di Christabel. Mentre continuanon la ricerca, Maud e Rolan si avvicinano sempre più condividendo le infelici verità delle loro vite amorose. Infine, il racconto fa un balzo indietro nel tempo e narra dell’incontro d’ amore tra Ash e Christabel com’è reso nel poema della donna. Nel frattempo Fergus ha intuito che Maud e Rolan sono in missione segreta e coinvolge Cropper. Maud ora sta investigando il suicidio di Blanche, o, più precisamente, dove poteva essere Christavel quando è accaduto il fatto (c’è un anno intero d’ assenza di cui render conto). Leonore arriva, inattesa, e mette Maud in imbarazzo con le sue allusioni sessuali (alle quali Maud risponde sostenendo di essere felicemente celibe), ma le porta anche un’importante nuova scoperta: una lettera da una cugina francese di Christabel nella quale si racconta di come Christabel quella fatidica estate viaggiava in Francia. Cropper rintraccia George e gli rivela il valore commerciale delle lettere. George, la cui moglie è malata e a cui il denaro potrebbe giovare, si infuria con Maud, che non aveva mai menzionato la questione finanziaria, e Leonore assiste alla scena senza capirne le cause. George ingaggia un avvocato che contatta Blackadder per ottenere una valutazione corretta delle lettere. Blackadder realizza che le lettere sono la ragione della sparizione di Roland e si sente tradito. Roland e Maud sono quindi cospiratori e corrono il pericolo di essere scoperti, ma sono comunque un passo avanti rispetto al distaccamento [n. d. t. gruppo armato di volontari]. Decidono di mentire ai rispettivi partner e di fuggire segretamente in Francia. Condividono più di un’ambizione, condividono anche l’idea di una vita di celibato. Il giorno seguente ricevono una fotocopia del diario che scriveva Sabine, la cugina di Christabel, una creatura naive e senza esperienza che ammirava l’ indipendenza della cugina britannica. Il diario rivela che Christabel era incinta e, finalmente, si sbarazzò dell’infante in modo misterioso. Il diario di Sabine termina senza fornire ulteriori informazioni riguardo al bambino. Nel frattempo, entrambi Cropper e Balckadder, gli arci-rivali, cominciano a ricercare la connessione tra Ash e Christabel, ed entrambi inciampano sul racconto di un medium, Hella Lees, che Ash aveva accusato di barare durante una seduta. Blackadder sa che Cropper è avvantaggiato dal denaro e quindi lancia una campagna patriottica per tenere le carte in Inghilterra. Leonore è sconvolta allo scoprire che il suo modello di donna lesbica aveva un amante maschio, e decide di aiutare Blackadder e, avendolo intuito, gli dice dove si trova probabilmente Maud. Ora tutti vogliono trovare Maud. Val, che ha già un nuovo amante, un avvocato, capisce che Roland probabilmente è andato via solo per seguire Maud. Maud e Roland vedono Blackadder e Leonore quando arrivano al villaggio e decidono di tornare a casa. Arriva anche Cropper e incontra il suo rivale. I tre cacciatori cenano insieme interrogandosi su cosa Roland e Maud possono aver scoperto a proposito del bambino di Christabel. Maud e Roland non hanno scoperto niente. Roland, senza una lira, ha perso la sua donna e il suo lavoro e vive a casa di Maud. Sorprendentemente è il nuovo compagno di Val, Euan, che scopre qualcosa di importante per loro: un documento, firmato da Christabel che rende Maud l’erede legittima delle lettere. Maud è avvertita che Cropper vuole far aprire la tomba di Ash per controllare il contenuto della scatola che è stata sotterrata con lui. Maud, Roland e Euan decidono di mobilizzarsi contro Cropper. Rolan è piuttosto depresso: questa era la "sua" scoperta, e ora è diventata di dominio pubblico, e particolarmente di Maud, che si ritrova a guadagnarci sia in termini di denaro che di carriera, mandre lui ha preso tutto. Un flashback narra degli ultimi giorni della vita di Ash, e ciò dal punto di vista di Ellen sua moglie che sta al suo capezzale. Lei riceve la lettera di Christabel la quale ha saputo della malattia di Ash. Christabel include una lettera per Ash, ma Ellen decide di non consegnarla, sapendo che potrebbe contenere la verità sul bambino (verità che Christabel ha nascosto ad Ash). Ellen vuole che suo marito muoia in pace e che il passato sia sotterrato per sempre. Roland fa vista a Val e trova tre lettere indirizzate a lui da tre univeristà che gli offrono posizioni importanti. D’un tratto la sua vita appare avere successo. La sua mente si libera così dalla paranoia del fallimento e Roland si mette a scrivere poesie. Euan, Val, Roland, Maud e Blackadder si incontrano per decidere come fermare Cropper. Durante una scena degna di Halloween, il gruppo accerchia Cropper proprio quando questi ha appena scavato e preso la scatola. La trovano la lettera di Christabel ancora sigillata. La lettera rivela che una figlia era nata e che è stata allevata dalla sorella di Christabel. Maud discende da quella figlia illegittima che era di Ash e Christabel: lei non è solo l’ erede legittima delle lettere ma dell’intera storia. Roland e Maud fanno l’amore. Un post-scriptum aggiunge un dettaglio alla storia che nessuno conoscerà: Ash aveva scoperto dell’esistenza di sua figlia ed andò a farle visita, le diede anche un messaggio per sua "zia" Chistabel, ma la bambina se ne dimenticò e il messaggio non fu mai consegnato: Christabel non seppe mai che Ash sapeva.

"The Babel Tower (1996)

synopsis forthcoming

"The Biographer's Tale (2001)

synopsis forthcoming

"A Whistling woman (2002)

synopsis forthcoming

"The Children's Book" (2009)

synopsis forthcoming

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