Stephanie Merritt’s second novel charts a single adulterous relationship from its initial excitement and romance, through complications and confrontations with reality, to its messy end in abandonment, guilt and recrimination. It is done with exceptional wit and emotional sophistication.
Sally, the novel’s central character, is a struggling playwright who lives alone in a flat above a café in Hoxton. She is a fast-living kind of girl, who drinks and smokes too much, goes to a lot of parties given by and for her more successful contemporaries in the theatrical world, and lives a near-consequenceless existence of quips and hangovers.
When she is commissioned to write a play for the West End, she comes up with The Oak Grove, the story of a father who abandons his wife and daughter, a thinly fictionalised telling of her own family history. The play is retitled Real by her producers, and the difficulty