Kit de Waal’s second novel, The Trick to Time, begins with Mona, a sixty-year-old Irish immigrant, standing by her window in the middle of the night. She notices a man in the building across from her and raises her mug in mock salute.
This is the first of many late-night acknowledgements, until one day she bumps into him in a shop. Karl and Mona begin to meet for coffee and walks, and one night he turns up at her house with bags of shopping and insists on cooking dinner. He orates on antiques and which wines to pair with fish, and wears a handkerchief matched to his tie. Mona – flustered, a little attracted, flattered, insecure – listens, wavers, but continues to see him. He is a figure of quiet coercion, asserting dull aphorisms and pressing on the small of Mona’s back.