The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Charles Williams’ last novel brings together many of the themes of his other five novels. Lester Furnival, who has been married for six months, and her school friend Evelyn Mercer are killed by a plane that crashes near Westminster Bridge. Only gradually does Lester realize that she is dead. As she crosses a strangely quiet but still familiar London, Lester speaks to her living husband, Richard. With Evelyn, she sets out to accomplish something in her “new life” to make up for her incomplete earlier life.

Jonathan Drayton, a painter friend of Richard Furnival, is in love with Betty Wallingford. To impress Betty’s mother, he paints a portrait of Simon Leclerc. Lady Wallingford sees in the picture “a ranked mass of beetles” around the face of an imbecile. Offended, she insists that Betty break off her engagement to Jon-athan. Jonathan also has painted a remarkable picture of the city of London as a city of light. The painting impresses Richard, who asks how Jonathan came to create it. Jonathan explains that Sir Joshua Reynolds, a famous English painter of the late eighteenth century, once alluded to common observation and a plain understanding as the source of all art. Jonathan is later visited by Simon, who approves of his portrait but dislikes the painting of the illuminated city. He attempts to flatter Jonathan, calling him a genius and insisting that great art is apostolic. A practical artist, Jonathan throughout the novel insists on...

(The entire section is 441 words.)