Kate Heron is a middle-aged, comfortably well-off woman in a second marriage with Dermot, who is several years her junior. Her son Tom is a young adult, seemingly lacking in talent and maturity, but expected to take over his paternal grandfather's business. Her 16-year-old daughter Louisa attends a boarding school but, for most of this novel, she is at home on holiday and pining after the local curate. Dermot is, in short, a ninny, who is unable to hold down a job and so sponges off his wife and his mother. Although never explicitly stated, it appears Kate joined up with Dermot out of loneliness when she was suddenly widowed. They seem an odd couple, and most of the other characters in this book are generally wondering how long the marriage will last. Kate is also mourning the passing, several years ago, of her dear friend Dorothea. About halfway through the novel, Dorothea's husband and daughter return to the village after a long absence, unwittingly upsetting the order of relationships.
Elizabeth Taylor is quite skilled at portraying ordinary people, embodying some with amusing idiosyncracies (such as the aunt who is obsessed with sex, although she has no direct personal experience), while also putting her characters under a microscope to expose the tiny flaws that are often the source of their downfall. This is what I enjoy most about her writing. Unfortunately, the plot did not measure up to the characters, and in my view this book fell short of her other work (i.e.; A View of the Harbour (my review), and Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont (my review) ). ( )