Talitha Stevenson, Author . Harcourt $24 (408p) ISBN 978-0-15-101162-9

Rich and psychologically astute, British author Stevenson's impressive second novel (after 2004's An Empty Room ) refracts the life of an upper-middle-class English family—Alistair Langford, a prominent London lawyer; his devoted wife, Rosalind; and two grown children, Luke and Sophie—through the prism of a single, scandalous affair Alistair has with a witness in one of his cases. The event exposes the intricate web of lies that forms Alistair's life, in particular the flagrant denial of his middle-class past as he pursues success and respectability by virtue of his amazing intellect. The most intricate portrait is that of 28-year-old Luke, an advertising executive who embarks on a torrid affair with a high-strung, beautiful and self-absorbed actress, only to be emotionally devastated when she leaves him. Luke's increasingly desperate ploys to win her back are a key narrative arc, though the main story is Alistair's. A fine writer who paints her scenes with loving detail, Stevenson also depicts her characters' thoughts and insights with an acuity reminiscent of Ian McEwan's recent triumph, Saturday . The increasingly baroque plot threatens to overwhelm the novel, but this is nonetheless the work of a writer to be watched. Agent, Andrew Wylie. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 06/27/2005
Release date: 09/01/2005
Paperback - 452 pages - 978-0-15-603044-1
Open Ebook - 464 pages - 978-0-547-95939-9
Hardcover - 500 pages - 978-1-86049-985-2
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