All the Bright Contagions
Beautiful, mischievous and charming: Patrick Staunton is sufficient
of a portrait artist to recognize trouble in the beautiful wife
of his wealthy employer, and hardly needs the warning of mafia
connections from an old Polish friend. 'Of course you will fall
in love with me, I guarantee it', Natalie Stumpfl tells him at
a Frankfurt nightclub, and remorselessly Staunton is drawn into
her scandalous past even as he begins to understand the roots
of his own tangled relationship with women. He closes his eyes
to the murders of his father and girlfriend, and to the money-laundering
activities of his employer, blindly following Natalie through
Spain, the art-world of England and Russia. Will she leave the
husband she despises, or does she despise all men, allowing only
women to be fully intimate with her thoughts?
In stopping his headlong descent into crime, Staunton crashes
the car in which they are travelling, and is arraigned for attempted
murder. A celebrated court case brings out the shadows of Natalie's
past as Staunton tries to secure the affections of a woman who
is both his despair and continuing inspiration.
EXCERPT (End of Novel)
'Patrick, I am only alive when I am with you. Have you not
noticed that? That I laugh and chatter and am happy. Does that
not matter to you?'
'I'm not going to hurt Sompong. She's been through enough.'
'There are many types of love.'
I remembered my father, whose love for Hugh had destroyed
his marriage. I thought of Georg and the betrayal of Renata,
from which such a miserable existence followed. Of Rowena and
Jerry, of Christine and her family. And of the violence that
war does to our affections, or their slow suffocation under
'Anyway,' I said at last, 'it would have to be your hotel.
Not at the flat.'
'So what are we talking about?'
'It is you that have the independence now. You have the freedom
to ask me.'
'After I've spoken to Sompong.'
'Speak to me, Patrick.'
Yes, talk to Natalie, about a life that hadn't yet begun,
or might never begin, being undermined by Natalie's deceptions,
by concern for Sompong, and by involvements with other women
whose lives remained shadowy possibilities. But why take a step
so against experience and common sense, and for prospects that
were no doubt as illusory as anything else with Natalie? Because
it completes a picture that was drawn at the beginning of this
story, when I came to Botes in search of new opportunities?
I think more because it gives me back that other kingdom, glimpsed
in childhood, but now filled with the shapes that Natalie has
renewed with all the bright contagions of her imperative needs
No doubt that lies far into the future. More than Georg realized,
all our creations are shifting and unfathomable. We are only
bodies, an assembly of muscle, organ and nerve fibre through
which we give ourselves a home in a world infested with matter
that is no more selfless than our own. Natalie didn't smile
when I took her hand, nor the whole time we walked slowly to
the car. 'If you want to', she said again, but I wasn't listening,
only sensing we had already embarked on a bewilderment of our
own making, on a ordinary day in London, those first castles
still lifting and filling around us with the promises we shall
one day have to call our lives.