A Window Across the River Summary
by Brian Morton

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A Window Across the River

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In his prizewinning novel Starting Out in the Evening (1998), Brian Morton told the story of a failed, elderly writer whose career was revived by a graduate student’s interest in his work. A Window Across the River is also about the fears of failure that haunt every artist.

Although it has been five years since Isaac Mitchell has heard from his former lover, Nora Howard, he cannot resist responding to her telephone call, and soon the two are once again involved. Both are making decisions about their future. Isaac, a photographer, has stopped submitting his photographs for publication and taken a job that offers him a regular paycheck, while Nora has decided to stop freelancing and spend all her time writing short stories.

What troubles Nora is that since her fictional characters are always based on people she knows, pinpointing their weaknesses, her stories always cost her friends. Nora is a kind person; she keeps a tiresome lover because he has developed heart trouble; she gives up an artists’ colony residence in order to care for her dying aunt Billie. However, her art demands the truth, and she is painfully honest in the story she writes about Isaac. Its publication in a prominent magazine, coupled with a bitter disappointment in Isaac’s own life, bring their relationship to a crisis.

Although the novel ends in uncertainty, there is no doubt about the author’s own understanding of the perils of his craft. Brian Morton’s insights into the complexities of art and love, presented in his flawless prose style, make A Window Across the River a truly remarkable novel.