Adam is a writer, struggling to come to terms with the death of his painter father, Robert, and his difficult marriage to Catherine. Before he married Catherine, he had been the lover of her sister, Vinny. The classic menage a trois seems about to repeat itself, when Adam discovers his wife's father was less innocent than he had thought. Set mainly in contemporary London, partly in France, the action also harks back to the 1970's. The narrative evokes the style of the nineteenth century novelists and their themes: desire, guilt, pleasure. Pastoral landscapes alternate with those of the inner city and the past's interaction with the present is acted out by ghosts. The dead father haunts his son; in real life Vinny haunts her sister; and the whole novel is haunted by one of its great earliest exponents, Charlotte Bronte, and her passionate search for creative fulfilment.