There are a few admirable linguistic felicities in this book which remind me of Jane Austen, something I feel rather ambiguous about. Lovely though these felicities are to work out, do they belong, I wonder, in a modern novel? Though, again, this is not quite a modern novel. Set in the late-1950s, it is about Esme, a fading but still game lady of 58, who is visited by her former lover Felix for a long weekend. Felix has turned up out of the blue. During the war he was a reserved occupation doctor and their love affair was partly the cause of Esme's husband Julius taking himself off to help at Dunkirk, where he was killed. This upset Felix so much that he immediately joined up, had a fairly unremarkable war and then devoted himself to looking after refugees in Korea, until returning to England to become a GP.
Also part of Esme's ménage are her two daughters, Cressida, who, having had a series of affairs with married men, is about to fall dramatically in love with Felix, and Emma, who has just met an odd poet from the lower classes, Daniel, and is about to fall for him in a similarly ton-of-bricks way.
Everyone turns up for a weekend at Esme's comfortable country house and it is all terribly fraught. In a certain kind of novel the word `vulgar' is used to denote anything modern or working class, and it comes up, amusingly (not intentionally) here, in relation to things like television sets. Apart from the odd anachronism like that, this is, however, rather an unexpectedly good novel. One cannot care too much about the sluttish Cressida, but Esme herself has pathos, and Emma is nicely bold and virginal by turns. All in all, a cracking good read.