Sex and Stravinksy, By Barbara Trapido

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The Independent Culture

In this novel, Barbara Trapido, a writer fascinated by the intricacies of plot, examines how luck and timing can lend shape to a life. It opens in the late 1970s when Josh Silver, a South African PhD student, stumbles bleary-eyed into his squalid student kitchen to find Caroline, a leggy Australian blonde, doing the washing up.

On impulse, the two get married, and move to North Oxford. As life moves on, Caroline finds herself in thrall to a monstrous mother and a ballet-obsessed daughter; while Josh, on his first trip to South Africa in 20 years, bumps into his first love.

Trapido's choreography may be mannered, but the emotions are raw. She manoeuvres her characters into positions that stretch our credulity, but only just as far as she knows we'll let her.