Our narrator is Rachel, who, after a failed marriage to Michael, lives on her own with her small daughter. We learn about Rachel's unhappy childhood and then her much happier adoption by a single woman, Isobel. Now grown up and with a daughter of her own, after her marriage broke down Rachel is not looking for another relationship and prefers one-night stands, until she meets Joshua. From there the narrative takes us on a journey into a sado-masochistic affair which, to many readers will ring rather false. Joshua is a social charmer but he is into beating women and quite how such an ostensibly intelligent woman could remain involved with him is difficult to credit. As she explains it, he gives her permission to be submissive and childish - which we have been at pains to discover is not how she wants to be in the rest of her life. And there's a child, around there somewhere, though after an introduction of her at the beginning, she's never heard of again. As Rachel is never sure when her abuser will turn up, what does she do when the kid is with her?
A more convincing sub-plot describes Rachel's efforts to help a young boy in a local children's home whom she is helping to work towards some CSEs before he leaves the home. The mixture of indifference and sympathy Rachel displays in this relationship is much more convincing and logical, but there is no happy ending.
In an afterword Diski explains her puzzlement at how the novel was received by some feminists. Whilst I have some sympathy for the outrage, I can also see that suppression of fantasy sex-lives is not the answer, even in the cause of feminism. This is a contentious book largely about sexual deviance and those who baulk at the explicit should stay away.