Wow! What a ride this book was. New York, 1885. Jonas is a brilliant artist who suffers from manic/bi-polar episodes. He is scarred mentally and physically, he is missing a hand. Imogene comes to Jonas' studio as a student, but she does not know that Jonas was forced to take her on by her godfather who is his patron. He deeply resents her being there, and does all he can to get her to quit. We can see that he is heading towards an "episode". I felt like a deer caught in the headlights watching it play out.
It becomes apparent that they are two very very lonely people who have both suffered much at the hands of people who were supposed to love them. As he goes through the beginnings of his episode, he is hit with a sort of epiphany about Imogene, and starts to become obsessed with her, all the while fighting it so not to hurt her. She is also becoming obsessed with him, and you believe her falling in love with him, as no one has ever showed her this kind of strong positive ( in a manic sort of way) attention. Jonas sees something in her through his manic/artists eye. Something no one else can see, especially not herself. He sees her as a goddess, as a butterfly, as a rare beauty and tries to force everyone else to see it. He believes she is supposed to be his masterpiece as Galatea to his Pygmalion. This was an incredible book, and going on my to-read-again shelf.