Louise Dean’s third novel is a careful dissection of our search for love in its many forms – sexual, religious, parental, and brotherly.
Richard, an Englishman living in France, is a philandering sales rep for a company selling psychiatric drugs. Promoted to cover Africa, he experiences at first hand the way the medical fraternity can pathologise understandable human behaviour. Newly cuckolded and on sick leave, Richard is being treated for a nervous breakdown (with a nice tinge of irony) by the same drugs he once sold. Africa also triggers the breakdown of Rachel’s marriage to Jeff. Wearing her Christianity heavily, Rachel gets sucked into a child adoption scam in Sierra Leone. Jeff seeks solace in the arms of Richard’s French wife, Valerie; and Richard starts to fall, if not at first for Rachel, then for the clear convictions of her faith. Observing this double adultery are Guy and Simone (Valerie’s parents), Max (Richard and Valerie’s son) and Maud (Rachel and Jeff’s daughter).
As in her award-winning debut novel, Becoming Strangers, Dean reveals her fascination with couples, how they do and don’t work, as a unit and as individuals. But arguably it’s the deftly sketched children who are the novel’s more intriguing characters (the adults are averagely flawed and needy; they have sex