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Port Mungo

Author: McGrath, Patrick Set In . . .
 Central America, Honduras, North America, USA, New York, New York City, Europe, England, London
Genre: Fiction
Time Frame: 1960s
Published: 2004
Description: Patrick McGrath is a writer of astonishing accomplishment: “fiction of a depth and power we hardly hope to encounter anymore,” according to Tobias Wolff, with “the drive and suspense of the most shameless thriller [and] the inevitability of myth.”

Port Mungo, his sixth novel, is a harrowing story of art and love, and of a family cursed by both. Throughout a privileged, eccentric childhood, Jack Rathbone enjoyed the constant adoration of his sister, Gin. So at art school in London, she is pained to see him fall under the spell of Vera Savage, a spectacularly bohemian painter with whom he soon runs off to New York City. From a bruised, bereft distance, Gin follows their southward progress through Miami and prerevolutionary Havana to Port Mungo, a seedy river town in the mangrove swamps along the Gulf of Honduras. Here Jack discovers himself as an artist, and begins to work with a fervor as intense as the restless, boozy waywardness to which Vera gradually succumbs, and which not even the births of two daughters can help to subdue.

Patrick McGrath’s mesmerizing narrative tracks these lives from the fifties in England to the nineties in Manhattan: the latter-day Gauguin; his buccaneering mate; the girls, Peg and Anna, left adrift in their wake; and Gin herself, their painstaking chronicler, whose house in Greenwich Village eventually becomes a haven for them all.

This feverish world of tropical impulses, artistic ambition, and love both reckless and enduring leads the Rathbones, ultimately, to a death swathed in mystery, and to another similarly bound in complicit secrecy, as the imperatives of passion, narcissism, and creativity hold each of them—and the reader—in relentless thrall.
  
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