After a brilliant youth, the painter Roderic Kennedy's life has been overtaken by a series of crises - alcoholism, the failure of his marriage to an Italian woman, and estrangement from his three daughters following his return to Ireland. When he meets Julia Fitzpatrick, twenty years younger than he and also an artist, it seems as if this period of turbulence and misfortune from which he has been struggling to emerge is at an end. But when Julia then meets William Armstrong, a middle-aged lawyer, it sets in motion a chain of events which, in the course of the following year, has dramatic and unforeseen consequences for all three of them. Deirdre Madden's ambitious novel is both a moving love story and a thought-provoking meditation upon the nature of painting. It is above all an exploration of what it means to be an artist in contemporary society.