Life is a series of accidents—that just gets weirder when you throw in politics.
Britisher Francis (Ann the Word, 2001, etc.) opens with a wry note averring that his setting, the Manchester suburb of Costford, lies “in exactly the position occupied by Stockport in the real world.” The two places share the same gray skies and—at least in 1970—the same sooty air. Presumably, the people of real-world northern England share the spirit of those in Costford, too, who aren’t at all content with their lot, though not exactly miserable. They make do with the hands they’ve been dealt, for better or worse, and keep that stiff upper lip even when they’re snogging behind their spouses’ backs. The tale centers on May, a world-weary Tory politico charged with caring for her senile mother, who has taken to undressing at inappropriate moments. May has had an affair with Trevor, a conflicted Labourite much infatuated with women in general: “Funnily enough he began to have the occasional fantasy about Ann, despite the fact that her sex appeal was zero. It wasn’t a question of whether she was attractive or not, but simply that she seemed to give out no signals at all. Perhaps that in the end became a sort of appeal.” Trevor and May grope inexpertly by night, and lock horns by day over a planned housing project that will make a good portion of Costford a high-rise slum, maybe posing a menace to aircraft as well. Both activities seem to make them happy. Meanwhile, the rest of Costford goes about trying to cash in on the housing-estate deal, find new loves, keep the loves they have, or sneak off to warmer climes. Until, that is, tragedy strikes.
A veddy British story for fans of Amis père et fils, Malcolm Bradbury, and even Dickens. Nicely done.