Now in his senior years, Nicholas Van Tassel travels on a train from New England to Florida for the burial of his sister, while writing the memoirs of his ruined life. He begins years earlier with the fire --- the fire that would set his fate.
As crowds escape a hotel blaze, Van Tassel spots a riveting woman under a lamppost. "There was about her a quality of stillness that was undeniably arresting, and if I close my eyes now," he recalls, "here in this racketing compartment, I can travel back in time more than three decades and see her unmoving form amidst the nearly hysterical crowd." From the start, Shreve sets up the initial sighting of Et