In 1949, Lloyd Wilkinson Petrie has returned as a Trustee to live in the long-defunct boarding school that he had attended as a child. There he is preparing a memoir.
He writes, with faltering recall, of the subtle anti-Semitism that pervaded the school's ethos and of his fascination with the Egyptian archaeological adventures of his distant cousin, Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie. Memories return too of the passions of a boyhood friendship with named Ben-Zion Elefantin, a mystifying older pupil who claims descent from Egypt's Elephantine Island.
From one of our greatest writers, this is a tale that captures the shifting meanings of the past - one that displays her delight in Jamesian irony and the mythical flavor of a Kafka parable, woven into her own distinct voice.