The novel takes place in Bootle, which is in Liverpool. Bootle is a town within the Metropolitan Borough of Sefton in Merseyside.
Clare, the woman John starts cheating on his wife with, has what they refer to as a hare lip, which is another term for cleft lip. A cleft lip contains an opening in the upper lip that may extend into the nose. Cleft lip and palate are the result of tissues of the face not joining properly during development. As such, they are a type of birth defect. A cleft lip or palate can be successfully treated with surgery. This is often done in the first few months of life for cleft lip and before eighteen months for cleft palate. Speech therapy and dental care may also be needed.