Alice has a scrupulously organised, comfortable life in West London with Noel - her second husband, whose main ambition in life is to sharpen his golf handicap in time for retirement. But Alice’s once-famous bohemian mother, Jocelyn, residing in shabby splendour in a crumbling house on a clifftop in Cornwall, becomes ill and Alice, with her daughter and stepson, goes to look after her.
What she finds there appals her - her glorious childhood home falling into decay, her brother and his wife taking more notice of the illegal substances being grown in the vegetable garden than in the domestic arrangements, and their twin sons running wild and living according to the tenets of the SAS Survival Handbook (trapping rabbits and catapulting seagulls).
Noel, helpfully, considers that Jocelyn offload the house (‘She’s sitting on a goldmine, you know’) and move into sensible sheltered accommodation. But the children love the freedom and beauty that they discover in Cornwall, and Alice begins to wonder whether her chosen way of life is necessarily the right one.
Alice, brought up by hippy-chick mother Joscelyn in a commune in Cornwall, has reacted against her upbringing by becoming the kind of person who writes lists, labels her bedlinen by size and lives in up-market Richmond with her second high-achieving husband and their his-and-hers family. Then she hears that her mother is not well and her brother and his wife, who resent having to cope with her and her lifestyle, need help. When she arrives in Cornwall every bone in her well-regulated body revolts at what she finds there but whilst she tries to correct the worst problems she finds that she is questioning her marriage and the relationships she has with the family. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and its reading.