Short summary - Point Counter Point
A few months in the life of the so-called intellectual elite of London. Receptions, meetings, visits, trips ... Friendly conversations, important disputes, social gossip, family and love troubles ... In music, counterpoint refers to the type of polyphony in which all voices are equal. And this principle is observed in the Huxley novel. There are no main characters, no single storyline, the main content is in the stories about each of the characters and in their conversations with other characters.
We meet most of the characters in Tantemount House, whose hostess, Hilda Tantemount, arranges a musical evening. She is a high-ranking lady with a unique ability to play off interlocutors that are not suitable for each other. She likes, for example, to put next to the artist and critic who wrote a devastating article about his paintings. She married Lord Edward Tantemount, because she was able to show a lively interest in biology for several months in a row, which became the life work of Lord Edward. «Lord Edward was a child, a fossil boy in the guise of an elderly man. Intellectually, in the laboratory, he understood the phenomena of sex. But in life, he remained a fossilized Victorian baby. » Hilda had enough of his wealth and position, and Hilda gained sensual pleasures with her lover, artist John Bidlake. However,
John Bidlake was a man who "knew how to laugh, knew how to work, knew how to eat, drink and deprive of innocence." And the best of his paintings were a hymn of sensuality. Now this is an old man, and a patient, he gradually loses the ability to enjoy what he valued all his life.
His son Walter is a young man seeking his ideal woman. A few years ago, he fell in love with a married lady, Marjorie Carling, whom he called the Sphinx for her mysterious silence. Now, having led her away from her husband and having lived with her, he is inclined to believe that Marjorie's husband was right, calling her "rutabaga" or "fish." Marjorie is pregnant with Walter, but he does not know how to get rid of her, because he is in love with another - with the daughter of Tentemounts Lucy, a recently widowed woman of twenty-eight years. Lucy loves entertainment, social life, vanity, but understands that all the pleasures can get bored quickly, unless they are sharper and more diverse.
Everard Webley, the founder and leader of the Union of Free British nationalist organization, the «toy Mussolini,» as his assistant Lord Edward Illidge calls him, a lower-class man whose communist convictions are caused primarily by embitterment at the rich and lucky world, comes to the Tantemounts tonight.
Here we meet for the first time with Denis Burlep, editor of the Literary World magazine, in which Walter Bidlake also serves. Walter's father once very aptly called Barlep "a cross between a cinematic villain and St. Anthony of Padua in the image of an artist of the 17th century, a cross between a sharpie and a holy man."
After a musical evening, Lucy drags Walter with her to the restaurant at Sbiza, where she meets friends. Walter really wants to take Lucy to some quiet place and spend the rest of the evening alone with her, but he is too timid, and Lucy believes that if he behaves like a beaten dog, then he should be treated like that.
In the restaurant they are waiting for Mark and Mary Rampion and Spandrell. Mark and Mary are an extremely harmonious couple. He is from the bottom, and Mary is from a wealthy bourgeois family. They met in their youth, and Mary made a lot of efforts to prove to him that true love is higher than class prejudice. Years passed, Mark became a writer and artist, and Mary turned out to be not only an excellent wife, but also a loyal friend.
Maurice Spandrell is a frustrated life gall young man. His childhood was cloudless, his mother adored him, and he loved her. But he did not forgive her mother’s marriage with General Noil, and this wound remained with him for life.
Philip Quarles, returning to India, and his wife Eleanor, the daughter of John Bidlake, Philip (and this hero is largely autobiographical) is a writer. He is intelligent, observant, but perhaps too cold and rational. He perfectly knows how to communicate in «his native intellectual language of ideas,» but in everyday life he feels like a stranger. And Elinor, with her intuition inherited from her father, the gift of understanding people, was with him like a translator. She sometimes got tired because her husband recognized only intellectual communication, but, loving him, did not give up attempts to enter into emotional contact with him.
In England, Elinor meets with her longtime fan Everard Webley. Not that she likes him very much, but she is flattered by the passion she awakens in this woman-hater, who believes that women only take away from men the energy they need for important men's affairs. She tells Philip that Webley is in love with her, but he is too busy pondering his new book, the modern Bestiary, and, confident that Eleanor Webley does not love, immediately forgets about it. But Elinor continues to accept Everard's courtship, one date follows another, and Elinor realizes that the next must be decisive.
Webley should drop by her before dinner. But Elinor receives a telegram saying that her son Phil was seriously ill in Gattingen. She asks Spandrell, who has come to her, to warn Webley that the meeting will not take place, asks to give her house keys to her husband, and leaves. And Spandrell comes to mind a devilish plan.
Life has long bored Spandrell. He never survived the betrayal of his mother and always, as if in spite of her, chose the worst path, gave free rein to his most evil instincts. And now he sees the opportunity to do something finally and irreparable terrible. Recalling that Illidge hates both Webley and the Union of Free British, Spandrell takes him as his partner. The two of them wait for Weble in the Quarls apartment and kill him. The army of hated Illidge free British remains without a leader.
Illidge, unable to recover from the shock, leaves for his mother in the village. Spandrell reads articles about Webley's mysterious murder every morning with genuine pleasure. But he never found what he was looking for. There is neither God nor the devil. «Everything that happens to a person,» he tells Philip Quarles, «looks like himself.» It’s closer to me to live in a garbage dump. No matter what I do, wherever I try to leave, I always end up in the trash. »
Spandrell sends a letter to the Union of Free Britons informing him where Webley’s killer, armed and ready for anything, will be at five o’clock in the evening and gives his address. At the same time, he invites the Rampions to visit the Beethoven Quartet, the music in which he finally heard irrefutable evidence of the existence of a mass of things - God, soul, good, on a gramophone. Music sounds, «miraculously reconciling the irreconcilable - transient life and eternal peace», and at this time three of Webley's associates knock on the door. Spandrell opens the door, shoots in the air, and they kill him.
Walter Bidlake seeks Lucy's favor, but their romance is short-lived. Lucy leaves for Paris, from where she writes letters to Walter, but she is soon swept away by a new whirlwind of entertainment, and Walter remains with the bore of Marjorie, who has struck a religion and generously forgave him for treason.
Little Phil Quarles is dying of meningitis; his grandfather, John Bidlake, is also on the verge of death. Philip and Elinor are going abroad. «Wandering around the world, taking no roots anywhere, being a spectator - that’s like you,» Spandrell told Philip Quarles in their last conversation.
The novel ends with an episode in which Denise Burlep indulges in sensual pleasures, prudishly disguised as the innocent amusements of young children, with his apartment hostess Beatrice Gilray. He is happy because he got rid of his secretary Ethel Cobbet, the girlfriend of Barlep's late wife. She recognized his duplicity and did not «console» him in his «undivided grief». But he still does not know that, having received his letter in which he delicately informs her that the staff of the magazine has been reduced and he is forced to fire her, of course, with the best recommendations, she wrote him a derogatory letter in twelve pages, and then lay down on the floor near the gas stove and opened the gas.