Ralph Pears is 35 years old, an American reporter who is in London to interview and get notes on the life of Erica March, who at 87 years old may not have a lot of time or sense left to her. So Ralph's boss sends him to see if Erica is worth pursuing as a subject. Ralph feels that his own life has been valueless so far, and finds himself seeking unasked-for help from Erica to make some sense of his own time. As Erica narrates her life to him, and tells of her childhood, her work with the suffragettes, and her writing, the cupboard that was her mother's is one thing that is always part of her world.
While the story itself is interesting, and Erica's life is certainly full as she mirrors for much of it the wonders and horrors of the twentieth century, I found both her and Ralph to be characters that I found it hard to empathise with. They both seemed rather inexplicable to me in their views on the world and life. And if the extracts given from the `novels' of Erica March are indicative of her writing, I can't imagine how she would ever have been published in the first place. I'm afraid Erica March and Ralph Pears remain an enigma to me.