The story begins on a dark wintry Sunday evening as Frances Thorpe is returning to London after visiting her parents, and stumbles across a recent car crash. She cannot see inside the badly damaged vehicle, but calls the emergency services and sits chatting to the lady, Alys Kyte, who is dying within the wreck.
Afterwards, she is contacted by the police family liaison officers and asked to speak with the bereaved family. Initially she declines, but changes her mind after discovering that the husband is a Booker Prize-winning writer. She then lies to the family about Alys’ last words, and allows herself to become a confident of his daughter, Polly.
She becomes seduced by the lifestyle of the family, and the way in which opportunities in her working life (she is a sub-editor for the book section of a left-wing paper in London) increase through contact with the family. What follows is a master-class in one woman’s quest to better herself.
It is a slow-burning novel, in which the unpredictability of Frances’ actions keep you glued to the page. The writing is beautiful, the aura of suspense is maintained throughout, and it is a fascinating insight to the world of ambition, celebrity and networking, as well as an insight into the human psyche. I enjoyed it immensely.