A secret lurks in the life of Christopher Hughes, the most excellent headmaster that Meniston has ever seen, and it is gradually and dexterously revealed in this labyrinthine novel about lust and tragedy, through the points of view of the people who were involved in it.
Hughes was in the army, and left to become a teacher. Energetic and inventive, he is lionised in every school he works at, leaving an indelible mark on the fustiness that is Meniston – a school not for the idle rich, but for the sons of hard-working businessmen. With him is his once beautiful wife, Deborah, now worn to a wavering shred by something disturbing she has seen on a walk with their daughter Anna.
The novel opens at Hughes’s funeral, with an internal monologue from the grown-up Anna. She seems to have been rather an appalling little girl, sneaking around the school, telling tales on her companions, gossiping with the Polish matron, Mrs Kobak. In the shadow of her father she grows