Twined around Schubert's Die schöne Müllerin (which her mathematician father often sang), award-winning novelist Barbara Trapido's fifth book unravels the interconnected histories of Ellen, Jonathan and Stella and their friends, lovers and relations. Part Bildungsroman, part La Ronde, the novel's focal point is the moment when Ellen's younger sister Lydia is run over and killed outside novelist Jonathan Goldman's London flat.
Ellen and Lydia--or, to their headmaster father, "Gigglers One and Two"--were as close as sisters could be. They read romantic novels and giggled, talked about sex in front of their tiny stepmother and giggled, and helped Lydia's godmother make carrot cake for Jonathan, aka "The Novelist" and giggled. Then Lydia is killed. And Ellen stops giggling. She returns to Edinburgh University to discover her flatmates gone, leaving only a copy of Heart of Darkness and a drawing in lieu of money for the gas bill.
Rich and kindly Pen, older than his 23 years, and the madly talented artist Izzy have graduated. But what's happened to Stella, the obsessive and naive red-headed cellist?
Starring an array of attractive eccentrics, riven with elegant coincidence, and culminating in an utterly theatrical denouement, Trapido's fable of love and loss, families and loneliness, sex and religion, is romantic as Schubert, clever as an Oxford mathematician and heartbreaking as anything. --Lisa Gee