This is an unusual and enjoyable novel, full of struggling (largely unsympathetic) characters, delicious ironies, and understated mysteries that ply the readers' imagination even after it abruptly ends. The basic plot is about a marriage in crisis, but every time the reader thinks (s)he knows what's going on, more surprises - all horrendous and shocking - are just around the corner. Alliances and new life commitments are made and re-made in every chapter, to the point that just about every combination is eventually tried and tested and rejected, without ever reaching an equilibrium. The narrator is constantly confused and yet slogging ahead (with the help of a lot of drink) and trying to find a safe love along with total love, perhaps from more than one woman. The whole thing reads like a relentless parlor comedy, and often feels unrealistic, but the purpose of Murdock seems to be to get the reader to reconsider his/her life while laughing and yet horrified at the actions of the characters. It is, in my view, an exquisite balance of pain and ironic humor, a masterwork really. It also highlights how different the cultures are that share a language across the Atlantic: Brits really do have extremely different ideas about how to behave, including staying polite and nice in the face of the cruellest spousal betrayals and hypocrisy, though there are small eruptions of erotic violence. THe ending is just as confusing and unexpected as the rest of the book, and the trajectory that the characters will follow is totally unpredictable, which means they are vivid enough to live in the readers' mind.
Warmly recommended. THis can be read and re-read with profit, and I certainly will. It is a great gift book for the discerning reader.