A sad, moving tale of the lengths to which we go to seek protection and find family, with a tragic young girl at its heart.
Dido, the nine-year-old heroine and emotional centre of Patrick Gale's latest moving novel, knows that the adults who surround her, the adults who should know better, depend on her for happiness. Her mother, who died when Dido was just a baby, suffered stoically from cherubism, a genetic facial deformity which Dido has inherited.
Eliza, the chaotic and depressive aunt who has brought Dido up, and whose brilliant academic career has foundered due to the demands of motherhood, tries and fails to give Dido the happy normal childhood she never had herself. Her ex-husband, Giles, needs Dido back in his life, feeling it has lost all meaning, all substance, without her.
Then there is Pearce, the new love interest in Eliza's life, desperate to give Eliza and Dido the security and protection they need. But will Eliza let him? Does she love him? Or is she as monstrous inside as Dido fears she will one day become on the outside?
Told from the disparate points of view of the four lost and emotionally bereft adults, this is a moving and intensely felt examination of the steps to which we go to see protection and security in others. It is the story of people in search of a family and of the neglect of one young girl who needs support more than anyone.