First published: 2003
The book starts in 1942 with an eight-year-old girl, Romy Cole, hiding in a wardrobe.
She spies her father and mother fighting, and then when her father is left alone, she sees her grab a gun. There are men outside the house, and there is a angry exchange. These men want to evict the family, but Romy’s dad, Samuel, won’t let them. Then the police arrive, and Samuel gets more and more nervous. Romy is worried about her father, and when she starts to leave her hideout, she sees her father turn the gun on himself and shoot himself.
The novel moves forward in time, and it is 1953. We are introduced to Caleb Hesketh, who has just finished his National Service. That night in London, he and his friend go out clubbing, and then they end up at a private party where he meets Pamela Page, a young widow, who he feels mesmerised. The next day he goes back home and his mum in Middlemere. This is the house which Romy and her family were evicted from.
These years haven’t been easy for her. Her mother, Martha, has remarried, Dennis Perry, a man who beats her and her brother Jem up. Now Martha has two more children, and she also look after Dennis’s thirteen-year-old daughter Carol. Things are not easy for Romy. She now works in an office as a secretary, but I think this might change. Romy meets a woman in the office who gives her her card to contact her if she wants some work. The woman, Mrs Plummer, owns nightclubs and a hotel, so Romy starts considering possibilities to get out of her present life.
The same day that she meets Mrs Plummer, she goes for a ride with Liam, who she has dated a few times. Liam drives through her old village, so she asks him to stop the car, and while he goes to the pub, she walks to her old house. Without any qualms, she pushes the door and gets inside. Her eyes examine everything, and then she is caught by Caleb, who demands to know who she is. So she simply says that this is her house and it is his fault her father was killed.
Later Caleb asks his mother Betty, and the woman tells him that the girl was probably Romy Cole, and she explains how the family was evicted and the man shot himself. The farm actually belongs to Osborne Daubeny, and Betty and Caleb rent the property. When Caleb goes to see the man to pay the rent, he asks him about the Coles, and the man explains that it was a disagreeable occurrence. The committee decided to evict the Coles because Samuel Cole wasn’t running the farm okay.
We also get to know Osborne’s wife, Evelyn, who is not a happy woman. She has always wanted a family, but her pregnancies have all ended up in miscarriages. The relationship with her husband is not close, and the only person she feels close to is her friend Celia, who she meets for lunch regularly. Celia now tells her that she is having an affair with a friend of her husband’s, and she is even considering divorcing Henry and leaving her four children. Evelyn is surprised by Celia’s secret, and in a way she also feels jealous of the happiness she can see in her friend.