In the late 1950s, bankrupt Jaguar salesman Jim Parker must start his life over again in a village near Glastonbury. He grudgingly accepts employment in a relative’s clothing store. Meanwhile his two children attend a tiny rural school and his long-suffering wife sets up house in a primitive farm cottage. While Billy, his son, dreams of the mysterious Glastonbury Tor, Jim secretly sells Billy’s toys to fund his adulterous rendezvous with a teenage waitress. Jim’s meek wife, who knows of the affair but says nothing, tries to fulfil herself through amateur dramatics. Billy comes to learn of his father’s guilty secrets and eventually confronts him. Ostensibly this novel is about how young Billy’s coming of age intertwines with his father’s dawning realisation that he, too, must grow up and stop acting like such a feckless, self-pitying prat.
Apart from a few throwaway references to Teddy boys and the Suez Canal Crisis, the historical time period feels incidental and undeveloped. Some of the events feel completely incongruous to the setting. Would a teenage girl in a small, close-knit community in the 1950s so easily compromise herself by having an affair with a married man—and a bankrupt loser at that—having sex with him in her parents’ house? The book is peopled by stock characters: the crazy incontinent cat lady with a heart of gold, eccentric schoolmarms, the racketeer/paedophile, the school bully, and the insultingly caricatured “Only Gay in the Village.” Shallow.