In the title story of Tessa Hadley’s third collection, a nightmare prompts a nine-year-old’s revelation. The child loves Swallows and Amazons, but in her dream the book includes a chilling summary of how the lives of Roger, John, Titty and Susan play out. ‘Roger drowned at sea in his twenties … John suffered with a bad heart.’ Disturbed, the girl wanders downstairs into the empty, moonlit sitting room and contemplates her new awareness of time:
She was aware of their lives running backwards from this moment, into a past that she could never enter. This moment, too, the one fitted around her now as inevitably and closely as a skin, would one day become the past: its details then would seem remarkable and poignant, and she would never be able to return inside them.