Two Cambridge academics, the historians Nick and Sarah Mallinson, take a sabbatical with their three small and lively girls in a remote Languedoc farmhouse. But the farmhouse has its own histories, rather more fraught than those the Mallinsons are used to dealing with on the page. Nick once wrote that 'History is more about amnesia than memory.' But what if that amnesia is a saving grace - disturbed at one's peril, like the murk of a standing pool? As the illusion of Eden retreats, the couple feel the vulnerability of being among strangers, and being strangers themselves - even in their own place, and even to their own children.Sarah frets about the danger of the swimming pool and the nightly visits of the wild boar, while Nick is more concerned by the guns of the local hunters. Meanwhile, however, there is Jean-Luc, the gardener, living alone with his invalid mother in the village, whose private world involves hammering nails into a doll, collecting arcane rubbish, and spying on Sarah's naked dips in the pool. What should the Mallinsons make of him?
Writing, as always, with linguistic elan, an alert ear for dialogue, and huge imaginative flair, Adam Thorpe deftly interweaves social comedy with narrative suspense, returning us - brilliantly and inexorably - to the dark and terrifying mysteries that feed at the heart of this thrilling novel.
Adam Thorpe was born in Paris in 1956. His first novel, Ulverton, was published in 1992, and he has written six other novels - most recently The Rules of Perspective - two collections of stories and five books of poetry. He lives in France with his wife and three children.