Richard’s needy, bohemian ex-wife, Inge, makes life with his new wife and step-daughter as difficult as possible. Since leaving her and their two boys, Richard can’t help but respond to her loneliness, driven by guilt and a sense of duty. Inge has been hanging on for eight years, convinced that Richard will eventually return to the family home. Richard’s second wife, Helen, is more self-contained and independent, allowing him to please everybody except perhaps himself. His lifelong friend the handsome, manipulative, promiscuous author, Felix, is not averse in allowing his creativity to overlap real life, and Felix takes his pleasures very seriously. His devoted wife turns a blind eye to his selfish extravagance, so long as it’s not too close to home.
When Felix begins an affair with Helen’s young daughter, Sally – the most forbidden of fruit – a series of unfortunate events slowly unravels all their relationships, finally laying bare the undesirable truth of jealousy, lies, secrets, immorality, and betrayal. What sets this eighties novel apart from others that try to emulate this kind of sex-shock-taboo style, is the incredible depth of character and the highly credible backstories. The storyline might involve time-worn themes but nothing is overdone or overwritten, sex scenes are restrained and impart only what we need to know, making for a deliciously dark and smutty read heavily based on the psychology of relationships, and the prisons we can so easily make for ourselves.