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Kit Milcourt – impatient, quirky, idealistic and brilliant – has been a climber, diver in exotic waters and affluent young city banker. Now, because of his beloved Anna, he is a teacher. Glumly mediocre Sandmarsh High School, reeling under assaults from Inspectors and its own unpromising pupils, is hard put to contain his maverick ideas. Year Seven, on the other hand, love them. Only the soothing presence of Anna keeps the peace.

But Anna can’t guard her erratic husband on the school trip: instead a far darker, more malevolent staffroom presence crosses Europe and discovers what Kit has secretly planned for the children amid the dim alleys of winter Venice. But children are unpredictable too, and things move rapidly beyond both teachers’ control.

Between farce and tragedy the resulting events swiftly change Kit’s and Anna’s live in unthinkable ways, strain a great love to the limit and open a dark chasm into the past.


Purves's evocative descriptions of Venice intensify an already gripping narrative
<i>Mail on Sunday</i>
an idiosyncratic blend of her journalistic voice ... With the skills of a writer who understands the proper balance in a novel between issue and narrative. ... This is her best novel ... [and] will find an answering echo in many readers
Elizabeth Buchan, <i>The Times</i>
all the compassion characteristic of her writing in her previous novels and columns. ... This is a humane and perceptive novel
<i>Woman & Home</i>
As ever, Libby Purves draws you into the laughter and tears in the life of her characters, in this case teachers Kit and Anna. ... Like all her books, this is a cracking story
<i>Woman's Weekly</i>
A brilliant dissection of troubled lives
Done with a finesse which makes the words live on in your memory long after the novel has been put away
Purves' fourth novel is a skilled and serious attempt to deal with society's sensitivity (or oversensitivity) towards the treatment of children
<i>Nottingham Evening Post</i>
A lovely read, and much enjoyed by my reader, who thinks that this is her best novel yet.
Sarah Broadhurst