It's a familiar experience: you're recommended a book that sounds good, everyone else has enjoyed it, and as you're reading it you can appreciate why respectable critics have praised it to the skies - but for some reason it leaves you stone cold. For me, this is one of those books.
Perhaps it was my fault: my interpretation of the gushing introduction by Marion Keyes led me to expect a black comedy in the style of Nancy Mitford's glorious Love in a Cold Climate
. But I was disappointed, because despite the obvious similarities in setting - eccentric, down at heel toffs coping with crumbling estates and the modern world in general - it's not similar at all. I could find very little comedy in this tale, black or otherwise.
Perhaps that was it, the relentlessly depressing story: have I been through too many social disasters of the school dance/dinner party type myself to enjoy the ones the narrator, Aroon St Charles, is forced to endure? And the characters are very well observed, but did they all have to be so awful, and so hopeless? As long as a heroine is believable I don't need her to be likeable, but I found the deluded and hapless Aroon to be too self-obsessed and disagreeable to sympathise with, or identify with, so the pathos of her situation was lost on me.
Perhaps it's because over the years I've read a lot of books set in very similar worlds, and I didn't think the story was as sly and subtle as all that: all the subtexts, like the gay brother, seemed pretty obvious to me.
Some people have called this book a modern masterpiece, and I can sort of see why, so I feel obliged to give it three stars. But sometimes it just comes down to personal taste, and, rather like the rabbit mousse that gets served up in the first scene, I found it all quite unpleasant.