The Mentor: A Novel [NOOK Book]

Overview

Twenty-five years ago Charles Davis's first novel made him a literary legend. But with his recent work savaged by reviewers, Charles has been paralyzed by self-doubt. Then fate hands him an unexpected muse. Emma Bowles is the young assistant Charles's wife, Anne, hires to bring order to his pressured existence. Where Anne is sleek and elegant, Emma is awkward and self-effacing. But Charles glimpses the intriguing mysteries beneath her small-town demeanor. Soon he is obsessed with Emma, with understanding her, ...
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The Mentor: A Novel

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Overview

Twenty-five years ago Charles Davis's first novel made him a literary legend. But with his recent work savaged by reviewers, Charles has been paralyzed by self-doubt. Then fate hands him an unexpected muse. Emma Bowles is the young assistant Charles's wife, Anne, hires to bring order to his pressured existence. Where Anne is sleek and elegant, Emma is awkward and self-effacing. But Charles glimpses the intriguing mysteries beneath her small-town demeanor. Soon he is obsessed with Emma, with understanding her, controlling her. By the time Anne realizes she wants this disturbing young woman out of their lives, it's too late. All three are trapped in their own deceptions, and only a savage, shocking act can free them.


From the Paperback edition.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
The debut psychological thriller from Sebastian Stuart is a breezy, page-turning read about a world-renowned author who's fallen on tough times -- his new novel is a critical and commercial failure; his loving, high-society wife has a tormenting secret; and his new assistant has a very dark and demented past. Fun, quick, and shocking.

--Andrew LeCount

Considering that it's a first novel by an unknown author, Sebastian Stuart's The Mentor has generated a surprising amount of prepublication publicity. Having now read the book, which is a shrewdly constructed, immensely readable account of madness and murder in the insular world of the New York literati, I can understand why.

Like innumerable novels before it, The Mentor focuses on the complex, ultimately tragic interactions of an adulterous triangle. The three points of the triangle are former bestselling novelist Charles Davis; his wife, Anne, an ambitious, overextended entrepreneur; and Emma Bowles, the mousy, unprepossessing office temp who enters the Davis household and brings catastrophic changes in her wake. But the real heart of this novel lies in Stuart's skillful delineation of the fears, frailties, and secrets that are hidden beneath the visible surface of his characters' lives.

For 25 years, Charles Davis has been an American literary icon. His first novel, Life and Liberty, brought him instant celebrity and has since achieved the status of a modern classic. In recent years, however, he has fallen on hard times. Both his sales and his critical standing have steadily declined. His latest novel, Corridors of Power, has just been released and is shaping up as a major disaster. Its publication is accompanied by savage, condescending reviews and the lowest paperback reprint sales of its author's career. In the face of all this, Charles is succumbing rapidly to bitterness, disappointment, and terror, and to the unstated belief that the things that have always set him apart -- "his talent, his nerve, his edge" -- have deserted him for good.

Anne Davis is the glamorous proprietor of a catalog sales outlet called Home, which offers high-priced home furnishings to an upscale, trend-conscious customer base. Beneath its glitzy facade, Home is struggling for financial survival, and Anne is struggling along with it. Desperate to keep her company afloat, she allows herself to be seduced by a lecherous financier and ends up pregnant. As the novel opens, she is attempting to deal with several simultaneous crises: her pregnancy, her business difficulties, and her husband's deepening depression. In partial response to the latter problem, she hires Emma Bowles -- a drab, efficient secretarial assistant -- to help bring order to Charles's increasingly chaotic life.

Emma, on the surface, is quiet, colorless, and reliable. Beneath that surface, she is someone else entirely: a delicately balanced young woman with a long, painful history of mental and physical abuse, a history that climaxed in an act of matricide that kept her incarcerated in a Pennsylvania mental institution for many years. She is also a gifted writer and has transformed her violent past into a powerful, autobiographical novel-in-progress entitled The Sky is Falling. Her manuscript, unfortunately for her, comes to the attention of her latest employer, Charles Davis, who, in spite of his own creative difficulties, knows a good novel when he sees one.

From this point forward, The Mentor tells the story of Charles Davis and his developing obsession, an obsession that begins with Emma herself and ultimately extends to her book. Starting as a distant, authoritarian presence, he eventually becomes both her mentor and her lover, encouraging her writing and forcing her to see her novel through to completion. Throughout this process, Stuart skillfully traces the evolution of Charles Davis's gradual derangement, which culminates in his belief that Emma and her novel might just be his ticket back to the big time.

The Mentor works on a number of levels: as a novel of character; as a furiously paced novel of suspense; as an authoritative portrait of the closed society of Manhattan's cultural elite; as a portrait of mental illness, seen from the inside. Two deeply damaged figures dominate the landscape of this book. One is Emma Bowles, who seems fated to exchange one form of victimhood for another, and whose struggle to transcend her personal circumstances is both noble and tragic. The other, of course, is Charles Davis, a fallen artist who can no longer create, and who is willing to settle for the trappings of a spurious, unearned success. These two, supported by a host of vividly created secondary characters and a meticulously detailed urban backdrop, give The Mentor an uncommon degree of depth and substance and call to mind the early work of another New York City novelist, Ira Levin. Sebastian Stuart knows exactly what he's doing. He has created a fresh, compelling first novel that should have a good many readers, myself included, lining up for his second.

—Bill Sheehan

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Containing traces of The Babysitter, Gaslight, All About Eve and Deathtrap, Stuart's debut psychological thriller creates a wholly original, believable drama out of an archetypal love triangle involving a broken-down literary "genius," his mentally unstable but devoted prot g and his icy wife. Novelist Charles Davis was once New York's literary wunderkind, but that was more than two decades ago. Now 49 and bruised from a series of flops, he is sure his newest novel will be a hit: "Through some confluence of good fortune, DeLillo, Banks and Ford are all absent from this fall's list. There's room for him at the top. Again, after all these years." His wife, Anne Turner, is 13 years younger, a marketing hotshot and media celeb, head of an upscale housewares catalogue. One of Manhattan's most glamorous couples, they hit the skids in public when Charles's book is viciously panned in the New York Times Book Review, and he sinks into depression. Anne hires mousy but efficient temp secretary Emma Bowles to restore order to Charles's disheveled office. But Emma is a seriously troubled young woman who calls herself the "BadGirlSickGirl," and is running from a horrifying past. The story picks up speed while lingering exquisitely on eerie plot twists as Charles seduces Emma, and Anne's suspicions heighten. Discovering that Emma is writing her own novel, creatively blocked Charles "helps" her, while endeavoring to steal it, but he must make sure that his quickly disintegrating muse/workhorse will stay sane enough to keep writing. Meanwhile, Anne is pregnant, but Charles probably isn't the father, and Charles's own beloved mentor, his most trusted friend, is the only person who senses, and threatens to spoil, Charles's plagiarist scheme. The unraveling of the plot is ultra-stylish, equal parts ghoulish and cavalier; in Stuart's sharply observed Manhattan, an air of bemused morbidity festers amid the swanky circles of publishing and publicity, and the ambitious souls of the three main characters are creepily, masterfully authentic. BOMC alternate selection; rights sold in the U.K. (Nov.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
In his first novel, Stuart moves a familiar, suspenseful plot to a surprising conclusion. Charles and Anne Davis seem to have the perfect life together. Charles is a renowned author whose first book made him a literary legend, and Anne runs a successful, upscale catalog company. Unfortunately, Charles has not been able to repeat the commercial and critical success he achieved with his first book 25 years before. In fact, his most recent effort has received savage reviews, and he is lashing out at Anne. Even though she is dealing with stress in her own work, Anne wants to help Charles. Enter Emma Bowles, the awkward young woman Anne hires to be his assistant. Charles becomes fascinated and then obsessed with Emma. Each step in Stuart's set-up is carefully written, so that the reader seems sure to know where the book will end. But Stuart successfully turns the tale on its head, creating complex relationships along the way. Recommended for larger public libraries.--Jane Jorgenson, Madison P.L., WI Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307799210
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 2/8/2012
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 256
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

Sebastian Stuart is a native New Yorker who now lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


From the Paperback edition.
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Read an Excerpt

Charles is running. Usually he runs around the reservoir once, maybe twice, but today he doesn't want to stop, he wants to push himself. After his second time around, he jogs down the path and onto West Drive and keeps running. It's early afternoon, the day is chilly, it looks as if it's going to rain. He can't remember the last time he ran this far, he's sweating heavily in spite of the chill and his lungs burn as he sucks down oxygen, but he doesn't want to stop, he wants to run, high on hope.

He thinks of Anne. They've been so distant lately, both preoccupied with their careers. Even their lovemaking is perfunctory. They shouldn't have bought the apartment. They overreached and they know it. Land mines of resentment dot the marriage. He hasn't been pulling his weight financially, has been distracted, irritable. Yes, envious. But that's all about to change.

Charles runs past a playground. In the distance he can hear faint strains of the carousel's calliope music. He grimaces as a sudden stitch knots his side. Age--it scares him. That low back pain that flares up after a long drive, the eyestrain after an hour at the computer, the inexorable retreat of his hairline--there's no doubt his body is starting to betray him. He picks up his pace.

The party for Capitol Offense is on Wednesday. The book has been in the stores for a week. He has a good  feeling about this one. The publishing world has been  ignoring him lately. It's all cyclical, though, and after the last  two disappointments, he's due for a measure of the  success and respect his earlier books received. He's earned it. Through some confluence of good fortune,  DeLillo, Banks, and Ford are all absent from this fall's lists. There's room for him at the top. Again, after all these years.

He nears the northern end of the park, where Harlem begins. A few heavy raindrops start to fall. The park is emptying out quickly. A wind comes up, damp and cold. He runs past a wide green lawn interrupted by outcroppings of gray bedrock, like whales rising from the sea. Charles tries to ignore the blister he feels opening on his left foot. He's in great shape. Isn't he? How many forty-nine-year-old men can run like this, just keep running? He has stamina, staying power. His best years are yet to come. After things settle down, he'll lavish attention on Anne, make amends for his recent moodiness. She's been so understanding.

The rain picks up, the drops coming quicker. When he was in his twenties, he loved to run in the rain. He can still handle it. It's wilder up in the northern reaches of the park; there are patches of trees that look like deep woods. He passes two black girls huddled under an overpass, making out, their passion stoked by the veil of rain. It's coming down steadily now, blown by gusts of wind. Charles's sweatshirt is soaked.

And then his cell phone rings and he takes it out of his belly pack. Anne says it's embarrassingly Hollywood of him to take calls while he's running.

"Ray's Pizza," he says.

"I'd like a large pie with pepperoni and pineapple."

Charles laughs. It's Nina, his agent. More important, his friend for over twenty years.

"Where the hell are you, Charles?"

"Somewhere in Central Park, partner. Swimming against the current."

"In this rain? Thank God the exercise bug never bit me. Call me when you get in."

Charles can hear something serious in her voice--they know each other that well. He ducks under a tree, his body heaving with each breath.

"What have you got for me?" he asks.

"A disappointment, I'm afraid. Call me later."

"Better tell me now, Nina. I like to be wet when I get bad news."

"Well, I just saw an advance copy of the Times Book Review."

Charles crouches down and leans back against the tree.

"And?"

"Some envious hack takes out his frustrations on you."

Charles hears a high-pitched screech but there's no ambulance, no police car.

"Charles, are you there?"

"Who wrote it?" he asks, ready to add another name to the enemies list.

Nina mentions someone who sounds vaguely familiar. One of those writing-program one-novel wonders?

"How bad is it, on a scale of one to ten?"

"You don't need to read this one, Charles."

"I'll call you later."

"Listen to me, Charles--"

"I'm going to hang up now, Nina. Good-bye."

Charles stands up and starts to run back downtown. Faster. By the end of the day, every publisher and agent in the city will have read that review. When he gets home, he has to call Anne and tell her. He can just hear the sympathy in her voice. The concern that masks her pity.

And then he falls--trips over himself, crashes down on his right knee, scraping flesh off his knee and his palm. He picks himself up and keeps running, ignoring the pain and the blood. He's nearing Seventy-second Street, his route home. He splashes through a rush of water pouring down a storm drain. His running shoes are soaked and he has to blink to see through the downpour. He's been counting on a good paperback sale from this one. Something in the mid six figures. The Times review probably lopped an easy hundred grand off that. He can't ask Little Miss Success to take up the slack, as if he were a kept husband. He imagines, for one brief troubling instant, hitting Anne, slapping the concern off that exquisite face. His knee and palm are pulsing with pain. He sees his apartment building rising above the trees. He runs right past it and keeps on running.


From the Paperback edition.
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 4, 2013

    SunClan's New Mentors 8/4/13

    •WillowStorm~ Apprentice is Fawnpaw<p>
    •QuickStrike~ Apprentice is Lotuspaw

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 19, 2000

    Good to the last page......well, almost :(

    This novel has some very interesting twists and turns in it...ones that keep you wanting to go on reading. I felt that the last few chapters of the book were a bit choppy and lacked the nice flow of the rest of the book. I got the feeling the author didn't want the book to be more then 250 pages so he just finished it off as quick as he could.

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