‘There is no cure for being alive.’ This is the conundrum with which Dr David McBride, the psychiatrist at the centre of Salley Vickers’ new novel, attempts to win the confidence of a reticent patient. After an almost successful attempt at suicide, Elizabeth Cruikshank has been admitted to the private hospital where David works. It is his task to persuade Elizabeth to share her troubled history and to find, if not the remedy for her unhappiness, at least the acceptance that will make life possible. In finding the key to his patient’s despair, he is unexpectedly brought face to face with his own childhood trauma. As Elizabeth haltingly describes a love affair that ended in tragedy, David ponders the influence of his brother’s accidental death on the man he has become. Sharing Elizabeth’s journey into self-awareness, her physician is able to take the first steps towards healing himself.