Set in 1986 in the London library a scholar Roland Mitchell who is studying the work of Randolph Henry Ash discovers two letters written to a woman who is not named. Mitchell despite believing himself to be a straight forward, decent man pockets the two letters because he knows he may be on the path of some hitherto undiscovered literary fact.
Going about it in a sort of detective fashion he discovers the letters are written to Christabel LaMotte The plot becomes thicker now. Ash is unhappily married. Christabel is involved in a lesbian relationship with Blanche but Christabel is bisexual. Mitchell realizes that there is definitely more to this relationship than just a couple of letters and seeks what would be for him literary stardom if he can unravel the mystery of this woman and her relationship to Ash.
At this stage add an unlikely romance between Maud who is the leading authority on Christabel LaMotte and Mitchell. Christabel is incidentally an ancestor of Maud as well. To further complicate matters Mitchell is in a dull, dying relationship with Val and their relationship goes plodding along only because neither of them is energetic enough to end it.
The tragic story of Christabel and Ash has many hidden undertones and it is not only Mitchell and Maud who are anxiously following the leads. There are heavyweights involved - those who have much more money and authority to throw around and at one stage it seems as if the original Mitchell and Maud are not going to have much luck. It all ends well enough though I think everyone would have guessed at its ending long before it actually surfaced.
I liked the book but like so many others found the inclusion of the poetry, the diaries and the letters tedious. I know it adds to the "flavour" of the writing as it were but I also found it slow going. The story in itself - a tragi-romance was delicately handled and the characters were very much alive, even the deadly dull ones were really dull!! The ones that were robust were robust enough for all. I must also add that lots of reviews also found the inclusion of the poetry absolutely marvellous.
My first read of this author and I will be certainly looking for other books as well.