Grace and her gay brother Andrew have a special sibling relationship, so when they inherit their Grandmother`s house, they move in together to be free of rent and of annoying housemates. However, they have ignored one very important possible tableau – what would happen if one of them wanted to add to their ménage with a lover?
Grace is developing her doctoral thesis on how unmarried mothers in literature were treated in the past. This becomes ironic, as Andrew falls in love with James, who subsequently takes up residence with Andrew in his half of the house. James and Andrew, on one of their nights out, are witnesses to the murder of a gay man by a group of homophobes. James is distraught and turns to Grace for comfort which becomes more than just a shoulder to cry on. Grace finds that she is pregnant and wants to keep the baby but the fallout from the murder has near-fatal consequences.
Barbara Vine interweaves the present with a fascinating parallel story, also involving family betrayal, murder and the consequences both of having a gay brother and being an unmarried mother, set in the 1920s through to the 1950s. Although on the surface the facts in the two stories are similar, the treatment past and present is very different in some ways but prejudice has not disappeared. I love Barbara`s rich prose and thought-provoking perceptions on the topics of single motherhood and homosexuality – she has enhanced her writing here with much research. A mesmerising and thoroughly excellent read.Review by Liz.