Gillon - red-haired, intelligent, vulnerable - comes to London to escape from the demands of her wealthy, conventional, socially superior family in Charleston, South Carolina. An art historian, she has a chance meeting with Tilly, whose long-term boyfriend Henry is a wildlife photographer who is finding it hard to commit. Before long Gillon has moved into their flat, replacing Henry's old mate William, William's on-off-girlfriend Susie, and a lots of mess and disorganisation. Things are changing, and Tilly finds it difficult to accept that her dreams of settling down with Henry are receding further into the distance, especially when Henry announces that he is going to South Carolina to photograph the abundant wildlife of the area.
There, Henry is wholly seduced by the charms of Charleston, by Gillon's family, and by the old patrician way of life which presents itself. The rules seem to be changing, the time passing by, and the future is becoming less and less certain...
An admired English author of wryly intelligent family dramas, Trollope has never enjoyed a particularly wide American readership. This very likable novel, which features a protagonist from South Carolina involved with an English visitor, might change that. It even offers the notion that American family traditions, particularly Southern ones, offer a stability that contemporary English relationships often lack. Gillon Stokes is the odd girl out in her tradition-bound Charleston family, and when she goes to London on a typically whimsical impulse to pursue art research, she catches the eye of nature photographer Henry. When she casually invites him back home for a visit, Henry is charmed by the same folkways that Gillon finds so stifling, and he soon becomes so much part of her family that he begins turning their sense of themselves and each other upside down. Back in London, Henry's girlfriend, Tilly, is having problems keeping his friend William at bay, and discovers that she cares more than she expected she would about Henry's defection. The contrast between the casual, rootless Londoners and the rather rigid, assured Southerners is deliciously pointed, and Trollope (The Best of Friends, etc.) offers two splendid scenes of very different mothers and daughters coming to terms with their dissimilarities. This is subtle, delicate entertainment that skillfully avoids romantic clich while offering a group of believably quirky characters learning to adjust to new maturity. National advertising.