Summary: Part 1, Chapters 8-10

Chapter 8 

After agreeing to allow Theo to work with Alicia, Diomedes hands over his own hand-written notes, which Theo largely ignores. He does, however, learn that Alicia has attempted self-harm numerous times since being admitted to The Grove, twice very seriously. For a period of time, she was put on “two-on-one observation,” which means that two nurses were assigned to watch her at any given moment. For the most part, Alicia was withdrawn and isolated, drawing no attention to herself. However, in one notable incident, Elif accused Alicia of taking her seat, which provoked Alicia to smash a plate and attempt to slash Elif in the throat. After this incident, Alicia was put on heavy sedatives, which render her tranquil and unresponsive. Theo begins to develop his treatment plan. First, he resolves to understand the meaning of Alicia’s final painting, Alcestis, which he believes is the key to solving the mystery. Next, he concludes that he must gain a better understanding of Alicia’s childhood, as the events of early life often leave deep traces on a person’s psyche. He learns that Alicia survived a car accident in which her mother died, which he feels must have traumatized her. He also learns that the two individuals listed as contacts for Alicia are her aunt, Lydia Rose, and her brother-in-law, Max Berenson. When Theo calls Max, his secretary answers the phone and promises to pass on Theo’s message. When he calls Lydia, he is cursed at by the older woman.  

Chapter 9 

At the end of his first day at The Grove, Theo discovers that he has lost his cigarettes. Yuri finds them in the nurse’s station and asks Theo out for a drink. Though initially reluctant, Theo ultimately agrees to grab a drink with Yuri to learn more about Alicia. At the Slaughtered Lamb pub, Yuri brags about his proximity to Alicia and claims to know her better than anyone. Yuri then asks Theo if he is married and claims that marriage is the key to understanding Alicia’s case. When he first moved to England, Yuri was married to a Latvian woman who made little effort to learn English or integrate herself socially. One day, Yuri spotted a beautiful woman and begins to follow her, even staring at her from outside her house. When he confronted her with his feelings, she turned him down. Despite this rejection, Yuri understands that he cannot return to his wife, and later marries a more fun-loving Hungarian woman who works at a spa. Reluctantly, Theo tells Yuri that he is married and that his wife’s name is Kathy. Yuri recommends that Theo focus on Kathy and leave Alicia behind.   

Chapter 10 

Later that night, Theo meets Kathy at a café where actors congregate after rehearsal. She tells her friends about the night that she and Theo met, admitting that they were both dating other people at the time. While Kathy tells the story to her friends, Theo narrates the same events directly to the reader. He went out to meet friends with his girlfriend, Marianne, and meets Kathy, who is there with her boyfriend, Daniel. Kathy and Daniel fight and he leaves the bar. When Marianne wants to go home, Theo dismisses her rudely, and she leaves the bar, stung. Kathy and Theo begin chatting, and after a few more drinks, they sleep together in his apartment. The next day, Marianne confronts Theo over the phone about his behavior, and he breaks up with her brusquely. He begins dating Kathy and experiences love for the first time. At Christmas, he proposes to Kathy, and she accepts his proposal. When Theo brings Kathy to meet his parents, his father is rude and hostile, and the four share an uncomfortable lunch. Theo feels ashamed that he sought his father’s approval, but Kathy tells him that she understands him better now that she has met his family. They marry in a small registry office without inviting family, and Theo thanks God for bringing Kathy into his life.  


Alicia’s silence poses a unique professional challenge to Theo, whose primary mode of treatment involves talking to his patients about their feelings. Because he cannot get information from Alicia directly, he decides to employ other methods to learn more about her. First, he turns his attention to her relationship with Gabriel and her final painting, Alcestis, which he describes as “her only real testimony” about the murder. Theo is convinced that Alicia has attempted to convey the thoughts and feelings that she cannot express verbally in her art. The mystery posed by the Alcestis painting becomes an important motif throughout the story. Next, Theo decides to learn more about her childhood to understand how she came to murder her husband. Though Theo dismisses Diomedes’ notes as old-fashioned in their reliance on traditional psychoanalysis, Theo’s focus on childhood is inspired by the methods of Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, whose quotes preface the various “Parts” of the novel. Theo firmly believes that the past is key to understanding the future, describing childhood traumatic events as the seeds of a person’s struggles later in life. Throughout the novel, Theo ruminates on the various factors that shape an individual’s personality and destiny.  

Theo also demonstrates worryingly unprofessional behavior in these scenes, highlighting the gulf between passion and professionalism. He dismisses Diomedes’ notes without much consideration, even though Diomedes worked closely with Alicia in the first few months of her treatment. Instead, he decides to develop his own theory, hoping to solve the case by himself. His decision to call Lydia and Max, Alicia’s relatives, is by his own admission his “first professional transgression,” setting a precedent for his later actions in the novel. In his narration, Theo expresses regret for the decisions he makes during his treatment of Alicia, though he also feels that his fate was already decided like a character in a Greek tragedy, an important motif in the novel. Even with the benefit of hindsight, Theo tends to make excuses for himself.  

Theo’s focus on Alicia comes at the expense of his ability to connect socially with others. He only agrees to grab a drink with Yuri to extract more information about Alicia from him, as Yuri worked closely with Alicia as the head nurse of the facility. Though Yuri presents his story about following a woman home in a lighthearted manner, his behavior comes very close to stalking, another important motif in the novel which depicts multiple instances of men following, monitoring, and harassing women for their own gratification. Theo is uncomfortable with the story, though he does not expand upon the nature of his discomfort, which as we later learn, probably stems from personal guilt for similar behavior. He is also annoyed by Yuri’s claim that he knows Alicia better than anyone, as Theo has already begun to feel possessive towards Alicia.   

Chapter 10 presents Kathy for the first time. Theo clearly idolizes Kathy, describing her as an angel who gave him his first taste of true love. Where Theo is somber, antisocial, and melancholy, Kathy is spontaneous, charismatic, and joyful. Theo’s language is rapturous when he describes Kathy, who lives her life exuberantly and introduces him to a “magical world of warmth and light and color.” When they go to Kew Gardens, a large public botanical garden in London, for their first real date, Kathy is shocked that Theo has never been there before. This underscores their very different approaches to life. While Kathy chases new and exciting experiences, Theo shrinks away from everything but his work. Kathy, then, is everything that Theo is not, but she is also a foil to Alicia. The loud, lively, and distinctly American Kathy offers a stark contrast to the English, mute, and faded Alicia, a contrast which Theo comments upon directly.