Edgar Logan swaps his Parisian flat with a philosopher in Edinburgh's New Town, in order to work on his translation of David Hume's essays. He meets Harry Sanderson in the faculty, a rumbustious, heretical and increasingly troubled philosopher who is married to the beautiful Carrie, a considerably younger artist. Edgar's long studious days, include imbibing the spirit of Hume by visiting his grave, and following in Hume's pre-breakfast footsteps to Salisbury Crags. Sometimes he has an inkling that somebody comes to the flat while he is out. Edgar becomes intrigued by the elusive Carrie, while Sanderson introduces him to his passion for fly-fishing. Interaction with the Sandersons and their unravelling marriage, draw Edgar out of his role of perennial observer of life. He thinks about the breakdown of his student days, the precariousness of his French mother's mental state and of the relationship with his Scottish father who was dedicated to her and to his bookshop in the Latin Quarter.
This is a literary novel of ideas and suffused with intelligent humour in its ponderings and discussions on the nature of happiness, loyalty, memory, sanity/madness, art, philosophy, imagination, passion (suppressed and erupting), jealousy, translation and love. Somewhere in the middle my monkey-brain wanted a little more action, but this phase passed. In the Sanderson household disaster seems unavoidable, but the energy changes in the final part of the novel. The sojourn on the Scottish island with all its weather and radiant light brings creativity, a fragile healing, a human hope.