Katherine Sheppard, an unmarried teacher in New Zealand who still lives with her mother. The story is told as a series of diary entries written by this intelligent, idealistic, and somewhat neurotic woman in her thirties who evidently does not realize how strongly she yearns to get out from under her mother’s roof and find a permanent love relationship. She has been disappointed by men but keeps hoping to find “Mr. Right,” as she describes this imaginary mate in her diary. When she meets Dr. Hubert Nock at a party, she begins to hope that he may turn out to be Mr. Right. Hubert takes an immediate interest in her and quickly leads the eager, impressionable woman to believe that he has serious intentions. Her diary chronicles five months in the life of a fading spinster schoolteacher that are brightened only by occasional meetings with Hubert and daydreams about their future. She is bitterly disappointed when she discovers that Hubert has only been toying with her affections and is in fact already married.
Dr. Hubert Nock
Dr. Hubert Nock, an American psychologist visiting New Zealand in connection with his work. This tall, handsome, middle-aged New Englander appears to be a paragon of male virtues who has stepped out of an illustration in an American magazine advertisement. His behavior toward Katherine, however, proves that he is much more complicated than he appears. Being a professional psychologist, he easily understands her loneliness and longing for affection, and he begins to manipulate her to gratify his vanity. Although he leads Katherine to believe that they will marry, he often disappears for days at a time and then claims that he was ill or involved with work. From her descriptions of him in her journal, it becomes evident that she sees him more as a father figure than as a lover. When he is finally exposed as a cad, Katherine suffers a nervous collapse but then emerges much stronger and more self-reliant.
Katherine’s mother, a widow. This aging woman appears to be a drab, conventional, unimaginative homebody until Katherine begins discovering secrets about her past. Katherine learns that her mother loathed her father and, rather than mourning his recent death, is happy to be rid of him. At the end of the novel, Katherine’s mother confesses to Katherine that she was wild and rebellious as a young woman and traveled all over New Zealand with Katherine’s father while he was still married to another woman. Katherine’s new insights about both her parents, whom she has always regarded as models of decorum, help to liberate her from her rigid inhibitions, attributable to...
(The entire section is 673 words.)