Summary: Part 2, Chapters 13-19

Chapter 13

In the first of a series of short diary entries, Alicia writes about her distaste for a gun that Gabriel keeps in their home, which he claims is an old family heirloom. They have been bickering lately and Alicia is feeling emotionally volatile, crying when she sees some children playing with a hose. She admits to herself that she has long wanted to have children but doesn’t feel that she can be trusted with kids given the threat of mental illness that she believes she inherited from her mother. After a notable fight with Gabriel, they sleep next to each other in tense silence but then have sex and make up the following morning. Gabriel offers to get rid of the gun, but Alicia insists that he keep it. In her next diary entry, written from the same café as before, she writes of her anxiety regarding Max’s upcoming visit to their home.  

The next day, she writes again from the café about Max’s visit. While Gabriel and Max start a barbecue in the back yard, Alicia goes back inside under the pretense of making a salad. She hears Max’s heavy tread when he comes in for a beer. Alicia tells Max that she intends to tell Gabriel about Max’s inappropriate behavior at a party they both attended in the past. Max plays dumb and pretends that he was too drunk to remember anything from that night, but Alicia claims that he kissed and grabbed her non-consensually. Max then violently grabs her arm, and after repeatedly stating that he loves her and forcefully kisses her. Alicia bites his tongue, causing him to pull back in pain. Max leaves her with a vague threat and goes back outside. Alicia mulls over her options, acknowledging that it would devastate Gabriel to know that his brother had betrayed him in this way. That night, Gabriel says that Alicia was acting weird during Max’s visit, but she doesn’t explain why. In the final diary entry of this chapter, Alicia and Gabriel have a picnic for her 33rd birthday. Sitting under a willow tree, she is reminded of a happy memory from childhood. At home, they have sex, and Gabriel asks Alicia if she would like to have a baby, despite his previous reluctance. An overjoyed Alicia says yes.  

Chapter 14 

Theo finds no record of the suicide attempt referenced by Max in Alicia’s medical file. He calls a disgruntled Max who gives him five minutes to ask questions. When Theo asks Max which hospital Alicia stayed in after attempting suicide, Max states that she wasn’t admitted to a hospital, but rather, was treated privately at home, to avoid negative publicity. Further, Max does not remember the name of the physician. He also confirms that he was the primary beneficiary of Gabriel’s will, as Alicia was independently wealthy. Later that day, Diomedes calls Theo into his office and demands that he stop harassing Alicia’s relatives. An irritated Max called The Grove to file a complaint against Theo, and Diomedes does not want legal trouble when the future of The Grove is already so unclear. Theo vows to stop reaching out to Alicia’s family.  

Chapter 15 

That same afternoon, Max takes a train to Cambridge to visit Alicia’s cousin, Paul Rose, at Tanya Berenson’s recommendation. He finds the house in which Alicia was raised, a moldering old Victorian house surrounded by vines. He feels that visiting this house is essential to understanding Alicia, as childhood events leave deep impressions on an individual’s psyche. As he wanders into the garden, he feels that he is being watched, and sees an old woman looking out at him from a window on the top floor. He hears footsteps behind him, but before he can act, he receives a blow to the head and blacks out.  

Chapter 16 

He wakes up on the cold ground and meets Paul Rose, a tall and broad man with a boyish face and red hair like that of Alicia. He hit Theo with a baseball bat after misidentifying him as an intruder, but after checking his wallet, he was able to identify Theo as an employee of The Grove. He takes Theo inside the house, which is as dilapidated as its exterior. Paul pours Theo some tea with whiskey to take the edge of his thumping headache, and they chat about Alicia, whom Paul claims not to have seen for several years. He explains that they lost touch with her shortly after her wedding, as Gabriel was possessive of Alicia, which hurt the feelings of his mother and Alicia’s aunt, Lydia. Lydia moved into the house, owned by Vernon, her brother and Alicia’s father, after the death of her own husband. Though the arrangement was meant to be temporary, she stayed on in the house after the death of Alicia’s mother, taking care of Alicia and Vernon, who hanged himself in the house. Paul adds that he last saw Alicia at Vernon’s funeral, and that he doesn’t believe that she murdered Gabriel, as she was never a violent person. They hear a thump from upstairs, and Paul goes up to check on his mother. Shortly after, Paul beckons Theo upstairs to talk with Lydia.  

Chapter 17 

Theo goes upstairs and meets Lydia, an old and “enormously overweight” woman with long white hair. Despite their other physical differences, Lydia shares Alicia’s intense gaze. Theo looks around the room, which is full of junk, and feels that Lydia must be mentally ill. Lydia soon reveals her sharp hatred for Alicia, who she feels should be in prison rather than a hospital. Further, Lydia criticizes Alicia as ungrateful for depicting her in a deeply unflattering painting, which she characterizes as vile and disgusting. As Lydia becomes increasingly upset, Paul feels that it would be best for Theo to go. As he returns home on the train, he reflects upon his own escape from home, and feels sorry for Paul.  

Chapter 18 

In the evening, Kathy is out of the house and Theo attempts to view her email inbox again, but she is logged out. Theo notes the irony that she is currently rehearsing for the role of Desdemona, who is falsely accused of adultery by her husband in the Shakespeare play Othello. Theo alternates between doubting his own recollection and resenting Kathy, whom he no longer trusts. Later, in bed, Kathy tells him that her friend Nicole has returned to London from the United States, and that she intends to meet her for a drink. A suspicious Theo begins working on a plan to catch Kathy in the act of cheating.  

Chapter 19 

Theo visits the art gallery run by Jean-Felix Martin, a handsome man from Paris in his early forties. In his small office in the gallery, they chat about Alicia and the other members of the Berenson family. Jean-Felix admits that he could never stand Max and that he was not very fond of Gabriel either, a feeling that he believes was mutual. Max also explains his history with Alicia, who he met when they were both students in art school. For years, they painted walls together. Ultimately Jean-Felix came to accept that he was not a very good artist while Alicia’s career began to take off. He decided to open a gallery that would represent the work of Alicia among others. After Theo questions him, Jean-Felix claims that he saw Alicia just a few days before the murder, and that she seemed fine despite some anxiety regarding an upcoming exhibition. Jean-Felix asks Theo if he would like to see some of Alicia’s paintings that are held in the gallery.  


In her diary entries, Alicia continues to brood upon the mental illness that she believes she has inherited from her mother. Her own self-doubts add ambiguity to her recollections regarding her married life. She notes, for example, that Gabriel accuses her of starting fights for no reason. It isn’t clear, however, whether Alicia is in fact behaving in an erratic manner or if Gabriel is manipulating and gaslighting her. Indeed, Alicia is quick to cast doubt upon her own recollection of events because of her past struggles with mental health. Further, Gabriel claims that he keeps the rifle in the house so that he can defend himself and Alicia from intruders, though Alicia questions this explanation. In fact, she seems to think that he has kept the gun in case he ever needs to defend himself from Alicia, though she also notes that there is an aggressive side to Gabriel, which adds another layer to their complex marital dynamic. Gabriel also fails to recognize the predatory nature of his brother’s intentions towards Alicia, criticizing her for being so cold during Max’s visit. Because Alicia is not sure that she can, or should, tell Gabriel about Max’s inappropriate conduct, she feels relieved that she can at least leave a record of his behavior in her diary. These marital difficulties are, however, mixed with happy memories. Alicia ends this series of journal entries on a happy and hopeful note as they discuss their plans to have children together.  

Alicia’s own childhood becomes the primary subject of Theo’s investigations in Chapters 15, 16, and 17 of Section 2. Despite a direct order from Diomedes not to harass members of Alicia’s family, Theo is willing to sacrifice his career to solve the mystery at hand. His interpretation of psychology emphasizes the impact of early childhood experiences on an individual’s later development. Babies, he claims, are like innocent sponges that absorb the values and behavior of those around them, though these influences often express themselves in unpredictable ways. He takes a long journey to Cambridge to better understand the influences that Alicia absorbed in her early childhood, arguing that something that happened in that house must have created the conditions that would someday compel her to murder her husband. At the home of Paul and Lydia Rose, which resembles a cobweb-strewn haunted house from a ghost story, Theo learns a good deal about Alicia’s unhappy adolescence. After the death of her mother, Alicia is raised by the monstrous and overbearing Lydia, who reminds Theo of his own father. Alicia, like Theo, escaped from her abusive family at an early age. The boyish Paul, however, has failed to escape the family home and as a result is stunted, like a child in an adult body. Theo’s feeling of depression on his return trip to London stems from his sense that he might be like Paul if he had never left home for college.