The third poignant novel in The Nicholson Quartet revisits a family divided by pride and weakened by poverty in turn-of-the-century Glasgow.
Dedicated to holding their marriage together for the sake of their crippled son, both Kirsty and Craig Nicholson are forced to sacrifice the lovers they have previously found escape in. And for a time all seems well... until Kirsty seizes an opportunity to buy a small shop and makes a roaring success of her new career.
Lonely and rejected, Craig continually seeks ways to gain the upper hand on his wife and her partners until only a brittle band of conscience stands between them and ruin.
Despite the success of the first two installments of Stirling's Glasgow saga ( The Good Provider ; The Asking Price ), the third volume is heavy and uneven. Kirsty Nicholson has chosen to remain in a common-law marriage with policeman Craig Nicholson, ostensibly for the sake of their young son, Bobby. Craig is indifferent to wife and son, and Kirsty eventually learns of his affair with Greta Taylor, who has a small daughter. Setting up a shop with the help of her brother-in-law, Kirsty strives for independence and also finds an opportunity to revenge herself on Craig by hiring Greta. While the women find a common ground in their desire for security, Craig's many relatives pursue their various--mainly selfish--ends. Almost no one in this epic has any feeling for anyone else, and it is difficult to find a locus of sympathy when the point of view shifts erratically. The narrative concludes in a manner that assumes a sequel, without adequately resolving several story threads.