On a sultry June night, a tinker and her baby are trapped in a burning barn. From the big house across the fields the Cairns children watch the blaze, fascinated and shocked. The woman touched their safe, ordinary childhood only once, but as adults they are still haunted by her: Marion facing illness, Eleanor widowhood, David – but who knows what David’s life is like? All his sisters know is that in his frequent absences they miss him and when he comes back he makes everything seem magical. And yet David leaves disaster in his wake – or perhaps it’s just bad luck that terrible things happen when he is around. Back at Pitcairn after their aunt’s death, Marion and Eleanor discover that Alice’s legacy is a secret whose exposure unravels the past. Fundamental truths dissolve in the space of an afternoon; nothing is the way they had believed it to be.
‘Also a poet, Forsyth's clear sense of how a strong image can jangle the imagination, is once again in play, her economy of language drawing you to places and people that are flesh and blood and all human inconsistency.’
‘This is a work of near poetic accomplishment ’
‘A writer who evokes in plain, elegant prose and resonant dialogue the lives of ordinary, decent people.’