“A very beautiful woman. It was love at first sight. I saw her on the street. It took me a long time to get the courage to talk to her. I used to follow her...I’d watch her sometimes, without her knowing. I’d stand outside her house and look, hoping she would appear at the window.” He laughed. 


This story was starting to make me feel uncomfortable.

In the second chapter of Part 1, Theo agrees to get a drink with the head nurse Yuri at a nearby bar. There, Yuri makes alarming comments about past experiences women that seem to reflect possessive attitudes and threatening behavior. Though he moves to England with a wife who has traveled with him from his native Latvia, Yuri quickly finds himself losing interest in his wife and falling instead for a woman whom he sees while walking through the streets of London. It was, he claims, love at first sight. His romantic language contrasts sharply with the behavior he then describes, which amounts to following and repeatedly stalking the woman in question. Yuri assumes that Theo will sympathize with his story as a fellow man, exchanging tales of inappropriate behavior as a form of male-bonding. Theo notes that he feels uncomfortable hearing about Yuri’s conduct. However, later events in the novel reveal that Theo’s discomfort more likely stems from his own pained self-recognition in Yuri’s tale. Years earlier, Theo stalked both Kathy and Alicia, demonstrating a possessive and controlling attitude towards women that exceeds Yuri’s own more minor transgression.  

“I felt an unfamiliar happiness just being in her company, as though a secret door had been opened, and Kathy had beckoned me across the threshold—into a magical world of warmth and light and color, and hundreds of orchids in a dazzling confetti of blues and yellows and reds […] She was my invitation to life, one I grasped with both hands.

In Part 1, Chapter 10, Theo describes the personal bliss of his first few months with his girlfriend, Kathy. Though he had previous relationships and was in fact dating another woman when he met and had sex with Kathy, Theo feels that this was his first true encounter with love. This quote emphasizes the idealizing lens through which he perceives Kathy at this point in the story. He describes a “magical world of warmth and light and color,” rapturous language that hyperbolically imagines his relationship with Kathy as giving him access to a better, brighter and even magical alternative world. Theo’s language in this quote has a heightened, breathless tone and fairy-tale-like quality that suggest that he isn’t thinking clearly. As a result of his own past trauma and his difficult relationship with his abusive parents, Theo idolizes Kathy at this early stage in their relationship, placing unrealistic expectations on his new partner. His statement that he “grasped” Kathy “with both hands” points to the possessive stance that he will later assume towards her.  

“How little I knew her. Those emails demonstrated I’d been living with a stranger. Now I saw the truth. Kathy hadn’t saved me—she wasn’t capable of saving anyone. She was no heroine to be admired—just a frightened, f*****-up girl, a cheating liar.”

This quote from Chapter 8 of Part 2 reflects Theo’s fury following his discovery that Kathy, whom he previously regarded as his “invitation to life,” has been conducting an affair with another man. Though Theo’s anger is not surprising and even perhaps justified, his language here suggests that his prior idealization of Kathy is partially to blame for his current pain. His outraged claim that Kathy “hadn’t saved” him, for example, implies that he previously imagined Kathy as his savior. Throughout the novel, Theo develops highly dependent relationships to women whom he imagines will save him, first Ruth, then Kathy, and ultimately Alicia. In all cases, he makes unrealistic demands of the women whom he places on a pedestal. He arrives at Ruth’s house in the middle of the night for an unscheduled therapy session even though he is no longer her patient, and he develops unhealthy obsessions with both Kathy and Alicia. As this quote shows, Theo’s tendency to idolize the women in his life quickly gives way to hatred and disgust when they do not live up to his high expectations. When Kathy’s behavior proves that she is no perfect “savior,” for example, he describes her in sexist and demeaning language that reflects his own black-and-white thinking.