It is wartime England in 1940 and Frances Holden has gone subtly mad at the age of forty; her actions have consequences that reverberate through decades.
A shocking, hateful yet clever woman, Frances manages to alienate everyone who cares for her, particularly her long-suffering husband Arthur and her oldest friend Mandy. Frances is especially cruel to her young daughter Hadleigh.
When her appalling behavior results indirectly in the deaths of three people, matters reach crisis point and Frances is forcibly institutionalized. A carefully planned effort to take her own life fails, and out of pity Arthur rescues his wife from the institution.
Over the years, and in the course of this remarkable book, Frances becomes someone we care about almost in spite of ourselves. A singularly magnetic character who commands respect for her intelligence and plainspokenness, she manages to redeem herself ultimately through her delightful granddaughter Bonita.
For Hadleigh, who throughout her childhood suffered at the hands of her mother, coming to terms with the woman is no easy thing. But in the end, despite numerous suicide attempts and her own battle with alcoholism, Hadleigh is at last able to acknowledge and honor the extraordinary, and often wildly funny woman who gave her life.