It’s 1940 and Elinor has become an ambulance driver during the London Blitz. Another driver, Violet, confides that she always carries a cyanide tablet just in case. Elinor declines the offer of one, echoing King Lear’s Fool: ‘I don’t want to go to bed at noon.’ This book completes a trilogy, coming after Life Class and Toby’s Room, which follows three artistic friends from their classes at the Slade before the First World War, through the heyday of Bloomsbury and now headlong into another war. Which of them will survive the onslaught?
Elinor seemed loosely based on Dora Carrington in the earlier books, but, longer-lived, she has outgrown the similarity and is now married to Paul. Artistically blocked, she envies his success; even at the height of the mayhem he can wander to his studio and put brush to canvas. Yet Paul also courts danger nightly, searching for survivors in bombed homes. Meanwhile, their old friend and antagonist