Zoe is a singular, although not a lonely child, bookish, observant, temperate but also a lover of fairy tales and the escapes they seem to offer. Her mother echoes these characteristics but, in her, they evidence something a little more diminished. Remarkably, forced out by well-meaning relatives to a social event she would much rather avoid, her mother meets and marries the kind, ebullient Simon. Simon seems to Zoe like a Santa Claus figure, a figure that seems to confirm her trust in fairy tales, who has rescued her mother from long afternoons, and longer evenings, of waiting. She wonders if perhaps now someone will rescue her.
Gentle tragedies, and a dissection of loneliness and the flawed routes out of it offered to women, follow. We become captivated by Zoe's world and by Brookner's rendering of her inner life. Brookner has been at the height of her powers for so long that words like genius and masterpiece flow easily. The astonishing thing is that these words must be invoked to do this level of writing any justice at all. --Mark Thwaite
With a steelier grip than almost any other writer, Brookner always reaches out and pulls you in. Her talent for immersing you in the pinched, emotional life of her characters is unparalleled... Her understanding of female loneliness is heart-clenching. (Julie Myerson Mail on Sunday)
Achieved with the subtle brilliance for which Booker Prize-winning Brookner has received such acclaim... It is highly unlikely you will read a finer piece of literature this year (Scotland on Sunday)
What a relief it is to read this beautifully crafted prose (Daily Express)
One of Brookner's most subtle, original and emotionally resonant works... She subverts expectations again (Sunday Telegraph)