'A slender, intelligent fiction written in ravishing prose... If I read a better novel this year, I shall think myself lucky' - Sunday Telegraph Shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction and the Whitbread Novel Award.
'So touched with magic, so achingly sad and funny that my breath was taken away... Wonderful' The Times
Two short stories: a crime writer on a train journey ponders the death of her characters; and a man trawls his girlfriend's apartment looking for hidden fragments which might reveal her deepest secrets.
Two short stories: a recovering alcoholic tries to enjoy some peace an quiet while her daughter is at college; and two young sisters escape their overbearing stepdad for a day and search for their estranged father.
Two short stories: a schoolboy grows tired of his relationship with an aging poet; and a pair of neighbouring schools trade insults but share a cat.
Four short stories: Louisa's old hometown sings its swan song; Hubert and Milly are immortalised on canvas as the embodiments of ennui; a timid grandmother is embarrassed by the friendliness of her local shopkeeper; and impoverished Miss Agnew lives in the rafters of a hotel.
Three short stories: a magical tale about Christmas; a man who loves wasp nests is forced to arrange an extermination; and a retired man finds real happiness with his grandchildren.
Four short stories: a seafaring man has a parrot with an illustrious past; a university lecturer endures a lonely Saturday night; a blind date takes an unexpected turn; and a lady must look after her eight year-old great-great-nephew for two full weeks.
Three short stories: a writer gives a lecture in a provincial town and encounters a figure from his past; two elderly siblings discover their sister's weird secret; and an elderly brother and sister find themselves tormented in turn by loneliness and the desire to be left alone.
Two short stories: a lonely woman is pushed to breaking point by her unkind neighbours; and, at her first husband's funeral, Violet Greene reminisces about their colourful life together.
A new pair of glasses gives a man a different impression of his life, his wife, and even himself.
A married antiques dealer struggles to retain an identity separate from that of her partner.
Two flamboyant men quickly become notorious when they arrive in a sleepy Kent village in 1956.
A receptionist at a doctor's surgery discovers an illicit affair.
A retired man makes a trip to London to visit his cousin and to investigate their shared family history.
Two short stories: an author must judge a short story competition; and a misanthropic recluse compiles an 'index of embarrassment' - a collection covering everything from song lyrics to the human body.
Two short stories: a writer visits a home for retired circus-folk to interview her great-uncle; and two daughters reminisce about a woman who nursed an unrequited love for their mother.
Two short stories: a daughter looks back on a Bonfire Night during her childhood; and a redundant man staying with his brother's family must cope with his sister-in-law's impatience.
Two short stories: an innocent act of kindness leads to devastating consequences; and a failed pop star pays a visit with revenge on his mind.