by K. L. Vidal
June. Orly Airport. Unprecedented heat wave gripping the city. Among the passengers just arrived from New York is Mrs. Caroline Devereux. She is noticed at once, not just for her singular beauty but for the long skirt and black turtleneck so inappropriate in such blistering heat.
A native of Buenos Aires, graduate of Yale University, sole heir to her father's estate in Connecticut, Mrs. Devereux has come to France for the funeral of an uncle. Her only acquaintance in Paris is her cousin. Unaccompanied, she waits for him in the Crillon lounge that night, where once again, even more than her outfit, her enigmatic allure is observed. Among those intrigued is Jude McCallister – lionized, wealthy, world-class portraitist par excellence. As the music plays on he finds himself somehow, disturbingly, driven to paint the remarkable woman staring back at him, ever-silent.
What follows is the story of Jude and Caroline Devereux. Obsessed, Jude pursues her across Paris. She agrees to a portrait, dressed despite the lingering heat in a pale turtleneck and long skirt. After a week, he persuades her to leave these clothes in his mirrored changing room, bringing others to wear after their sittings. Thus it is that Caroline finally confronts her nakedness. She stares at the burn tissue on her neck, ribs, hips, inner thighs; she studies the half-moon scar on her right breast; she finds, to her utter astonishment, that in its exquisite proportions, alluring shape and uniqueness, her body is splendid, although she had hidden it from both the world and her own eyes since a barn fire engulfed her in her old childhood ranch.
Transformed by her insights and freed at last from all fear, Caroline returns to Jude's studio. Stunned, he senses that the formerly aloof Mrs. Devereux wishes to pose for him naked. In the ensuing sitting, she recounts her agonized tale of pain, repression, and, in his studio, revelation. All this and more Jude transforms onto his canvas, creating his masterpiece: a nude, scarred, glorious woman called Half Moon.
In a sweeping tale at once erotic, suspenseful, and profoundly psychological, Vidal traces the fortunes of both the McCallister masterpiece and the uniquely sensual woman who inspired it. Elegantly written, the story takes us from Paris to Normandy, New England, Manhattan and the vividly scenic shores of Atlantic Canada. Characters vie for both the masterpiece and Mrs. Devereux's heart. In their desires for one or the other they interact; in their rivalries, they confront their own past; in the common thread that unites them all, Half Moon, as both metaphor for the transforming power of art and symbol for the redemptive forces of love, casts its own indefinable spell upon the reader. Mrs. Devereux's journey from shame through self-acceptance to an extraordinary, even majestic self-realization lingers long after the last page of her story is rendered. So, too, does the music of Vidal's prose, fitting accompaniment for the book's richly textured panorama of compassion, yearning, great-hearted survival and enduring fulfillment.