Since leaving his job to look after Alexa, his eight-year-old daughter, Thomas Bradshaw has found the structure of his daily piano practice and the study of musical form brings a nourishment to these difficult middle years. His pursuit of a more artistic way of life shocks and irritates his parents and his in-laws. Why has he swapped roles with Tonie Swann, his intense, intellectual wife who has accepted a demanding full-time University job? How can this be good for Alexa and for the family as a whole?
Meanwhile Tonie tunes herself out of domestic life, into the harder, headier world of work where long-since forgotten memories of herself are awakened. She soon finds herself outside their tight family circle and alive to previously unimaginable possibilities .
Rachel Cusk was born in 1967 and is the author of six previous novels, including Saving Agnes, which won the Whitbread First Novel Award, The Country Life, which won a Somerset Maugham Award and Arlington Park, which was shortlisted for the 2007 Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction. In 2003 she was chosen as one of Granta's Best of Young Novelists. She lives in Brighton.