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A beautiful young woman, Kitty Finch - botanist, erratic, mentally disturbed and often naked - interrupts a family's summer holiday with their friends at a villa in Nice.
Poet Joe and war correspondent Isabel are on holiday with their teenage daughter Nina and their own friends Laura and Mitchell. They discover Kitty floating just under the surface of their villa pool one day and somehow Isabel finds herself inviting Kitty to stay.
The novel has some grating issues: Kitty just shouldn't be so readily accepted into the holiday home of Joe, Isabel and Nina Jacobs and their friends. Once there and her oddities become apparent, it's hard to see how anyone would have let her stay. All the characters have their quirks and oddities, but amongst them Nina's seem the most anachronistic: why would any 14-year-old girl seek solace in the company of a young woman she finds strange and dislikes, particularly for the influence she sees she has over her father? For these reasons I shouldn't have liked the novel; but instead I really enjoyed it.
It's a short novel and I felt compelled to finish it in two sittings. If I hadn't had other things to do I would have read it in one. It's a captivating read. Beautifully written. Poetical in places, which suits the poetical theme running with Joe (famous poet) and Kitty (big fan of Joe's and wannabe poet). Eloquent prose mirrors the sadness of the novel and the desperateness of the lives of all of the main characters. The portrayal of depression, of emotional and psychological instability, of loss and desire and escapism is very clever. Symbolism and clever use of imagery runs throughout and the novel's themes left me thinking about them for some time after I had finished the book.
It was an excellent choice for the Booker shortlist in 2012; a very good literary read and I can highly recommend it.