The book is primarily carried by Whipple's keen insight into the compromises and self-deceptions of marriage, as well as the destructiveness of unacknowledged selfishness, but it's also full of well-drawn minor characters and moments of shining wit. The dry tone of the following made me smile:
The art of letter-writing, as taught at the Pension Ste Colombe, had not included an example of a letter one could write to one's lover's wife to ask her to send the clothes he had left behind when he deserted her, and Louise spent a considerable time in wondering how to word it. It was, she admitted to herself, a difficult sort of letter.And then there's this peek inside the cloudy head of the weak husband himself:
"I think we'll all have a glass of sherry," he said.That's nearly enough to indict him on its own: anyone who would fall back on sherry as a problem solver is not to be trusted. Sherry, after all, is at best a pointed stick compared to the Swiss army knife that is gin.
He almost worked on that axiom. When in doubt, have a glass of sherry. It tided him over. It put things off, and after a glass of sherry, problems mostly solved themselves.