A wonderful account of two artists and one 'almost' artist and their lives. Madden makes the art works created by all three of these characters: Roderic the famous painter, Julia the young artist just starting out and William the lawyer who wishes he'd been a painter from the start, wonderfully convincing, and writes very thoughtfully and realistically about the difficulties, and pleasures, of life as a creative artist. I loved the depiction of the relationship between Roderic and the much younger Julia (it's lovely to have the relationship between an older man and a younger woman written about so tenderly and sensitively). And she's wonderfully sensitive about Roderic's earlier marriage and its end too, showing how two basically decent people can just be 'wrong' for each other as partners, how ever much they are initially attracted to each other. Madden brought both these characters, and the tormented William (whose inner misery makes him such a dangerous man to others) wonderfully to life, as she did so many of the other characters in this book: Denis, Roderic's desperately shy brother, who can only find an outlet for his emotions in hill-walking and classical music, Liz, William's intelligent and brave wife (who William never bothers to really get to know), Roderic's family in Italy (his marriage ends in alcoholism and divorce - his relationship with Julia signals a new beginning for him), Dan, Julia's history-loving father, who has coped valiantly with being a widower and made his daughter into, in Roderic's words 'a beautiful and original young woman' - and lots more. The descriptions of Ireland and Italy are also wonderful, as if Madden has become influenced by art in her writing. A real treat of a book - Madden's absolutely best novel.