In her second novel, Antonia Swinson draws once again on her specialist subject: financial difficulties among the artistic middle classes. Richard, an art dealer whose hefty inheritance has been lost by his mother, has a 'love child': the awkward, talented Katya, a painter. And Richard's second wife, Harriet, has inherited a Victorian portrait of an alluring and mys-terious woman.
The story, set in 1995, moves from fashionable Notting Hill to the fleshpots of Largs, from Glasgow's Mitchell library to the ruined Castle of Wemyss, and culminates in a fashion that would do Dynasty proud. Swinson's style is informative, bright and chatty, which occasionally makes one long for the opposite qualities - stillness, drama in shorter sentences, life without dress labels.
But she does turn a nice phrase: "In Harriet's mind the rope of Richard's financial commitments seemed to wind, like the chains round Marley's ghost, all the way down the stairs and into the square below, cash boxes dangling from it like a lethal charm bracelet." An entertaining, observant tale of money and mores.
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