On an ocean liner during a trans-Atlantic voyage, emotions are intensified as love relationships get tossed about.
Elizabeth and Derek are a couple—sort of. At least they’re sharing a cabin onboard the ship. They’re almost engaged, but not quite, and Elizabeth is looking for reasons to escape from the relationship. Derek is a con artist, a profession that doesn’t carry well into romance. Onboard, they meet Arthur Lockwood, yet another con artist, and although Elizabeth pretends to be meeting Arthur for the first time, it turns out they’d been lovers years before, and she wants to hide this fact from Derek. This is easily done, for Derek becomes devastatingly seasick and for days is immobilized in their cabin. Elizabeth gradually, and at first reluctantly, enters into the force field that is Arthur, a charming older man still very much taken with Elizabeth. Despite her initial reticence, she gradually begins to spend more time with Arthur, and eventually, they rekindle their affair. Kennedy becomes lyrically erotic when she gets these two back together. In the interstices, Elizabeth and Arthur and Derek meet other passengers on the voyage, most notably Bunny and Francis, the latter of who is pleased to see Elizabeth turning away from Derek. As Francis explains, “I do get tired of seeing fantastic women with appalling men. It’s like some form of blood sacrifice, self-harm”—not that Elizabeth needs too much nudging. Kennedy occasionally takes us away from the claustral atmosphere of the ship to fill in the gaps in Elizabeth’s previous life.
With a ferocious and probing style, Kennedy examines love and pain and the whole damn thing.