A complacent Englishwoman who has it all discovers a life of passion and subterfuge in middle age.
Apart from the inclusion of the British class system to add some extra weight, the story of Dilly, her husband Francis, and her lover Matthew is little different from the predictable pattern of late-life adultery. Dilly, an unwanted and unloved child of near-poverty (nits in her hair, no shoes for school) grows up to be a pretty, unambitious 19-year-old. She meets Francis Holmes in the art gallery where she works, and, as he’s buying a Hockney for his new office (he’s a lawyer), he asks Dilly out. Six months later she’s married, almost 30 years later she has two grown sons, grandchildren, a luxurious London house, and a husband who still adores her. What she doesn’t have is passion. Returning from the funeral of her best friend, Dilly meets Matthew, a bit younger, certainly scruffier, but seductive all the same. The two begin an affair, and then, dangerously, fall in love. Dilly lies to Francis, telling him she’s visiting her old aunt Eliza when instead she’s off with her lover. The lies compound, she arranges for Matthew to stay with her at her summer cottage, they hide behind bushes from prying eyes, and she promises that she’ll leave her husband. Much of the story is taken up with Dilly’s anguished guilt at being unfaithful to her loving and truly lovely husband and, in the face of Matthew’s passion, not caring. There are a few truly juicy subplots—Aunt Eliza’s memories of her marriage to a homosexual, and Dilly’s sister Virginia’s unbridled jealousy over her sister’s good fortune in life—though the main plot, the story of Dilly’s affair, too often drones on about undiscovered passion without offering much action to go with it.
Passable tale of love and lies in a proper climate.