Pretence, deception, male chauvinism and episodes of 'domestic terrorism' drive this disturbing book.
A novel in the tradition of the Irish novel, set in London and rural Ireland and spanning more than half a century, the story of the McDermotts and the Davidsons, two families linked by the marriage of Rose McDermott, an attractive, spirited Irishwoman, to Henry Davidson, a wealthy Londoner. Like most unions, Henry and Rose's starts well but in a while begins to deteriorate; Rose is looking for love and communication while Henry, cold and enigmatic, seeks only an heir to continue the Davidson family line. Within a few short years husband and wife are leading separate lives while living under the one roof and keeping up appearances.
Billy Davidson has one photograph of his parents and it's the only photograph of them together that remains, and it remains only because he rescued it. It's one taken on their wedding day in January 1956, and as you look at it, his mother, Rose, is on the left and his father, Henry, is on the right; some will say the groom should be on the bride's other side, but to Billy that's irrelevant.
The photograph's a little battered because it had been held down by tape in an album for more than thirty years and was then ripped out the morning of the cremation in September 1988, leaving scars around its grey edges, but Billy cropped what he had to crop, cleaned it up as best he could and framed it.
Rose is wearing a pale wool coat. Billy can't be sure what colour it is exactly as the photograph is in black and white, and he never asked his mother. He was lucky to get the photograph before it was consigned to the waste basket so he didn't want to push his luck by asking for details or she might have taken it back and torn it up, but at a guess he'd say the coat is cream. Rose's hair is swept back and she's wearing a fabulous peaked hat with the peak at an almost rakish angle over her right eye, and she has a rose in her right lapel. Henry looks slightly shorter than Rose in the photograph, her shoulder's higher than his, but what does it matter when he looks so well? He was handsome, truly handsome. He's wearing a dark grey suit, collar and striped tie. A white silk handkerchief sticks out of his breast pocket and a rose is pinned to his left lapel. His hair is short and neatly combed and has a small wave in the middle.
But more than anything it is their faces with their strong, even features which are striking - clean and healthy and pure. They shine. It is Rose and Henry's day of days and they are shining.