Jessica Fontaine, this novel's narrator, has had an unusual background, with a mother who drifted about their white elephant of a manor house, ignoring her daughter's eccentricities. Now she leads a remarkably conventional adult life. Except, that is, for her terrible marriage, and a curious inability to relate to others, a quality shared by her son, Joel, but not, mysteriously, by her sisters.
It turns out that she has Asperger syndrome, mild enough not to be diagnosed until she is 40, but severe enough to hamper not only her dealings with others but, more importantly, her judgement of them.
Her husband, Andrew, is a horrible creature, whose Olympian insensitivity of spirit the author highlights by giving him a kind of fetid eloquence ("Can you type a letter to Mrs Flannel-face, Fungus-infested Forster?"). Her achievement in making even this miserable ruin of spite and cynicism somehow appealing is one of the finest things in this very fine book.