Lost chances and missed opportunities, resignation, change, war, suppression and oppression are among the themes surrounding West’s novel. For such a short novel, it is heavy. The heaviness is pervasive and there is no sense of reprieve for any of the characters. The novel’s narrator does begin her story almost with an apology…things aren’t as they seem…the people you’ll meet will not be in their best form. What unfolds is a highly depressing tale for our protagonist Chris. Though he once found happiness in his youth, he let it fall away in a sudden moment of angry frustration. The life he currently has with his wife is likewise frustrating…a wife of cold, statuesque beauty who has turned his home into a modern palace. When reading, one might readily notice elements that Daphne du Maurier would later develop in her novel Rebecca.
The effects of war have left Chris in shell shocked repressed state. But even in this state, he’s unhappy and unsatisfied. Though he is given the opportunity to rekindle his friendship with his lost first love, Margaret, there is still an underlying unhappiness and unrest. Though initially Margaret does seem to be a voice of reason, this feeling is soon lost when she’s left to make fanciful, mystical notions about the children they both lost in the new relationships they had forged.
Once Chris “awakens” from his repressed fog, he is left with only one course to take—a course that is seemingly no better than any of the others with which he has faced. West’s novel is about loneliness and aloneness met in various states.