The question of the public significance of her forgiveness never occurs to her, either, for she mentions it not at all. Marian Partington forgives Rosemary West: So what? Does it mean that our primitively vengeful system—in Partington’s estimation, “focussed upon retribution, causing more pain,” by which “healing is imprisoned”—should release West from prison, so that Partington can feel good about herself?

I would have said that egotism could go no further, except that it can. In the acknowledgments at the back of Partington’s book, she writes: “Finally, thank you Lucy. Your life and death have deepened my knowledge of love and grace.” This is no mere slip of the pen. It is an unseemly thought expressed several times in the book. “The crisis caused by Lucy’s death was long,” Marian writes. “It has been an extraordinary opportunity for change, a valuable chance to deepen my powers of compassion by facing the reality of my deepest fears, and that which has been buried within me.” Here is a lesson she learned from a Buddhist teacher: “To be grateful for whatever life brings, especially to those who cause you pain or humiliate you.” In short, the abduction, rape, torture, murder, dismemberment, and burial of Lucy Partington was a sovereign opportunity for Marian Partington’s personal growth, so that she could learn to be compassionate toward herself (and therefore, as a side effect, toward others).