In the Fold is a gently satirical and witty novel about modern manners and relationships. The narrator, Michael, is a lonely outsider who attaches himself to a privileged and charismatic family, not for the purpose of social advancement but because they capture his imagination and because he is desperate to belong. He falls into a friendship with the wealthy Adam Hanbury at university. Adam’s patrician air both irritates him and appeals to him, and when he is invited to Adam’s sister’s eighteenth birthday party he is annoyed but intrigued by the pretension of the invitation, which gives the Hanburys’ address simply as ‘Egypt’. Egypt turns out to be the eccentrically-named farm in Somerset where the large, chaotic and clan-like Hanbury family has lived for generations. In spite of his initial misgivings about the Hanburys, Michael, the only son of Surrey doctors, finds himself irresistibly attracted by their wild parties, their insouciant aristocratic disdain for bourgeois convention, and their rootedness in place. When Michael questions why Adam and his brother and sister live with their father at Egypt instead of with their mother, Adam replies: ‘This is our home. It’s the place that matters, not the people in it.’ Michael is also captivated by the ethereal beauty of the artistically-inclined Caris, Adam’s sister, and as he kisses her, he determines to marry her and to live as part of the extended family at Egypt.
After university, however, Michael and Adam drift apart. Michael, now a lawyer, is married to Rebecca, with whom he has a remote relationship and a curiously impassive son. Rebecca’s family, the urbane gallery-owning Alexanders, keep their daughter socially, practically and financially tied to them, as well as emotionally so, and