Julian as a small boy is taken on the perfect Cornish holiday. When glamorous American cousins unexpectedly swell the party, however, emotions run high and events spiral out of control. Though he has been brought up in the forbidding shadow of the prison his father runs, though his parents are neither as normal nor as happy as he supposes, Julian's world view is the sunnily selfish, accepting one of boyhood. It is only when he becomes a man - seemingly at ease with love, with his sexuality, with his ghosts - that the traumatic effects of that distant summer rise up to challenge his defiant assertion that he is happy and always has been.
Set mostly on Cornish beaches, against glittering seas, this is a remarkable, wholly recognisable story of the lies which adults tell, and of the little acts of treason which a child can commit, a compassionate portrayal of the merciful tricks of memory and the courage with which we continue to assert our belief in love and happiness.