Violet Clay, the protagonist and narrator. Nine years ago, Violet left her husband and moved to New York City to make her mark as a painter. Since then, however, she has instead illustrated gothic romances. Violet is haunted by her tragic past—her mother committed suicide shortly after her father’s death in World War II—and by her own apparent failure to realize her gifts. As a young artist, she particularly modeled herself on her uncle Ambrose, a writer. During the course of the novel, Violet comes to terms with Ambrose’s suicide and his ambiguous legacy.
Ambrose Clay, Violet’s uncle. As a young man, Ambrose spun a successful novel out of his infatuation with Violet’s mother. For years after that early triumph, he made a series of halfhearted attempts at a second novel, first in New York and then in Mexico. Meanwhile, he supported himself with part-time jobs and money from his mother and the women who fell for his Southern charm. Ambrose finally retreated to Plommet Falls, where he made a last-ditch assault on his novel and then killed himself. Ambrose is a very complex character: An alcoholic, a Don Juan, and a manipulator, he is nevertheless an artist of integrity. Violet’s ambivalent responses to his life shape her own artistic development.
Samantha De Vere
Samantha De Vere, a poor unwed mother and Ambrose’s neighbor in Plommet Falls. Proud,...
(The entire section is 563 words.)