Theo Faber

A psychotherapist and the primary narrator of the novel. Theo is a strong believer in the benefits of therapy, having benefited greatly from therapy himself after a deeply troubled childhood. Though he is passionate about his work, he struggles to maintain a clear border between his professional and personal life.  

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Alicia Berenson  

A 33-year-old painter in London whose diary entries constitute the second primary narrative of the novel. She is a talented and successful artist whose struggles with mental health stem from unresolved childhood trauma. In the “current day” sections of the book, she is confined to a mental health facility called The Grove after being accused of her husband’s murder and found not guilty by reason of insanity.  

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Gabriel Berenson

A fashion photographer and the husband of Alicia Berenson. He is a handsome and well-dressed man with an easygoing, charming air, whose murder sets the events of the novel into motion.  

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Max Berenson

A lawyer and brother of Gabriel Berenson. He lacks the good looks and easy social graces of his brother, whom he greatly admires.  

Kathy Faber

A lively young American stage actress and Theo’s wife. Her high, buoyant spirits bring great happiness to Theo in the early stages of their relationship.   

Jean-Felix Martin

The owner of the art gallery that represents Alicia’s paintings. Jean-Felix is a French immigrant who has lived in the UK since moving to the UK in his youth to study art. Though he readily admits that he was never a very good artist, his art gallery has found success by representing the work of Alicia, whom he met in college.  

Paul Rose

Alicia Berenson’s paternal cousin. Paul is a large and physically imposing man with a childlike, naïve personality. Both Theo and Alicia describe him as “stunted” because of the overbearing presence of his mother, with whom he continues to live into adulthood.  


Alicia Berenson’s paternal aunt. Lydia is a deeply unpleasant person with a poor relationship with her niece. Theo describes her as an extremely obese individual who lives in a derelict home with her son, Paul, whom she bullies.  

Vernon Rose

Alicia Berenson’s father. He commits suicide long before the events depicted in the novel, devastating Alicia despite their poor relationship. His emotionally abusive comments to Alicia during her childhood leave her with deep psychic scars.  

Eva Rose

Alicia Berenson’s mother. Alicia remembers her as a kind and sensitive woman who suffered from periodic mental health issues. Alicia speculates that the car accident in which Eva dies was in fact an intentional suicide.   

Lazarus Diomedes

The head of psychiatry at The Grove. Diomedes is a kind and wise man who has a keen ear for classical music and a good understanding of Ancient Greek drama because of his upbringing in Greece. He cares for the patients at The Grove but also struggles to keep the institution running.  

Barbie Hellman

The nosy American neighbor of Alicia and Gabriel Berenson. Theo notes that Barbie, a blonde American woman, does in some way resemble her namesake doll. While Barbie believes that she and Alicia are close friends, Alicia’s diary reveals that she finds her neighbor to be a nuisance, who regularly disturbs her at her home and speaks more than she listens.  

Christian West

An unscrupulous therapist at The Grove. Christian and Theo knew each other before working at The Grove and do not get along well. Rather than taking the time to work with his patients, he prescribes them heavy medication that leaves them tranquil but does not address their underlying issues.  

Indira Sharma

A kind therapist at The Grove who cares deeply for her patients. She brings a maternal presence to the psychiatric ward, baking snacks for her patients and colleagues.  


A nurse at The Grove. He gets along well with the patients, though some of his colleagues believe that he is too relaxed about security standards. Though he is friendly and easygoing, he deals prescription medication to patients illegally.  

Stephanie Clark

The stern manager of The Grove. Stephanie is a minor antagonist for much of the novel, butting heads with Theo and Diomedes repeatedly. Diomedes believes that she secretly works on behalf of the trust that funds The Grove, and that she would be happy to see it close. Despite her antagonistic relationship with Theo, she highly values the safety of patients at The Grove.  

Rowena Hart

An art therapist at The Grove. Theo dismisses her as an ineffective therapist who does her job in an uninspired and obligatory fashion. She dismisses Alicia’s photorealistic style of painting and makes little effort to get Alicia involved in the group art therapy sessions that she leads.  


An aggressive patient at The Grove. She has been institutionalized for many years after murdering her mother and sister. Theo believes that she hates others because she did not receive love during her childhood, and she often antagonizes, threatens, and provokes therapists and patients alike.  


Theo’s former therapist. Theo thinks very highly of Ruth, whom he credits with saving him from the suicidal depression that followed him through his college years. She is shown to be a caring therapist who is willing to share hard truths when Theo visits her for advice regarding his relationship with Kathy.  

Chief Inspector Stephen Allen

The officer in charge of investigating the case of Alicia Berenson. Allen presents himself in an unassuming and friendly manner, though he is in fact a shrewd and effective officer.