In her mid-40s after 20 years teaching in London, Kate comes home to Wales to look after her aging mother who is becoming senile. Kate connects with David, the younger brother of her best friend, Carol. Both Kate and David are pleased to find in each other someone who has an interest in the arts. David's wife, Suzie, does not share this interest, so Kate accompanies David to local concerts and films.
At one point, Kate tells David that his is an authentic life (as a Public Health doctor) while her life in the arts (Slavic Literature professor and amateur violinist) is only play. Kate's whole life does appear to be play-acting. Rather than resign her post in London, she has taken a one-year unpaid leave of absence. Her London life has been shallow; needing a change, she comes back to the house of her childhood. Not too big a leap there.
David's first wife left him then committed suicide. Their son, Jaime, now seventeen, was brought up by David and Suzie, his second wife. They also have two young children together.
Suzie has begun to distance herself from David, spending time with Menne, a new teacher at the school where she works. Menne and her boyfriend lead a hippie lifestyle - vegan, fortune-telling, marijuana. As Suzie pulls away, David begins to consider a relationship with Kate. Kate also imagines the possibility.
She sees Jaime in a cafe and introduces herself, recognizing him by the family resemblance. She tells him that she knew his mother. Jaime begins visiting Kate at home, first asking about the mother he does not remember, then befriending both Kate and her mother.
There comes a time in a father's life when his son becomes a man and, therefore, a rival. For David that time comes when Suzie leaves him and Jaime begins sleeping with Kate.
This book is deceptively written, carrying the reader along as though down a drifting river, following the natural flow. You know what they say: It takes real skill to make something appear effortless.