James Croxley, age fifty, a restorer of damaged paintings. He has been married to Eleanor for twenty-five years and is the father of their two daughters, now grown and not living with the Croxleys. Restoring modern religious paintings in a studio in his home, he has been enjoying a settled life. Unsuspectingly, he is seduced into a liaison by Kate. The passion long gone from his ritual sex with Eleanor and gone as well from his work, he sacrifices the marital and cultural civility into which his and Eleanor’s life has matured for his passion for Kate. The staid James is slowly overtaken by his alter ego, Jim, so that even at the end, in his workshop, Jim is furtively reading one letter and addressing another.
Eleanor Croxley, James’s wife, a forty-five-year-old music teacher and choral singer. With him, she has led a fulfilled family and professional life, in sharp contrast with her provincial upbringing, which was void of the satisfactions she has enjoyed in her marriage and in London. In her youth, the only outlet for her passion, reminiscent of Emma Bovary (in Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, English translation, 1886), was the church and, particularly, the music of the church. At first, she refuses to believe that James has been unfaithful, and even when she is convinced, she attempts to deal with the midlife crisis in a civilized fashion. Her generation (and James’s) falls victim to the machinations of the new generation of “Kates” in the 1980’s.
(The entire section is 642 words.)