Alexander Cleave is an ageing Irish actor making his film debut, improbably cast in the lead role of a major movie. But this belated plum doesn’t seem of overriding interest to him. Cleave’s consuming concern is the sumptuous memory of his first affair, a giddy, secret relationship when he was growing up in rural Ireland during the Fifties. At fifteen, he enjoyed a heady summer of love with Mrs Gray, his best friend’s mother. It lasted just five months – ‘one hundred and fifty-four days and nights, to be exact’ – but its effects were catastrophic, and have haunted him ever since.