It is the late 1990s, and Bruce is reflecting on an affair of twenty-five years before, in the mid-70s, with Marisa, an arts polymath. At this time she lives in a bedsit, and periodically takes off on continental adventures on the powerful motorbike she owns. Bruce by contrast is on the brink of inheriting the financial consultancy firm his father has developed as a family business.
When, unexpectedly, Marisa inherits a rambling dilapidated town house, her first thought is to sell it, in order to fund a decade-long backpacking expedition round the world. This is completely alien to Bruce’s way of thinking, and he persuades her that she will never get a better start in life than ownership of property. It’s a house that has been divided into an upper and lower flat. Both are in need of significant renovation, and Bruce contributes much of his own money to bring about the restoration.
Meanwhile Marisa is developing a feminist critique through whatever artistic means she can – music, theatre, publishing, the visual arts – but is always in need of funds to finance her projects. Bruce is ever willing to help, though is aware, gradually, that he can never fully enter into an intellectual union with her. The time must come for them to part – which they do, amicably. This coincides with Bruce’s marriage to Henrietta, someone of his own social background, whose political aesthetic is not nearly so well developed as Marisa’s. Contented husband though Bruce is, it remains to his lasting anguish that Marisa could never be his partner.
What prompts these reflections is Marisa’s name and address in one of his business listings. After twenty-five years she is still at the house he has helped renovate, though now as a work address, where with her daughter, Alicia, she runs a media PR agency. Bruce has one of his employees make contact, ostensibly to sell the RaeAgency financial services. Through this contact Bruce learns that although Marisa has a daughter, she has remained unmarried, and there appears to be no man in her life. For the whole duration of the book, Bruce debates with himself whether or not to try and make contact, and is unresolved on that question until the final, explosive chapter.
First published by CentreHouse Press as a paperback in 2006, now available as an ebook.