Damian Baxter is ridiculously, stupendously rich. He’s also dying and has nobody to leave his vast fortune to. However, an anonymous letter received years earlier suggests that he may have father a child many years ago, and now he wants to find that child in order to include him or her in his will. There are a few contenders for the mother of the child, and to track her down he needs the assistance of a former friend from the late 60s when Damian spent time amongst the upper classes and the aristocracy. The former friend is the narrator of the book, but he now harbours a strong grudge against Damian…
When I started this book I was not sure I would enjoy it. It seemed to be populated by snobbish shallow characters who I did not think I would be able to warm to. However, by about halfway through it had quite won me over and I simply did not want to put it down by the time I got to the ending.
As stated, the unnamed narrator is the former friend of Damian, who undertakes to find his child. As he does so and meets up with several people who he was friends with at the time in which most of the book was set, he not only discovers secrets about Damian’s past, but also comes to terms with events in his own.
We learn early on that the narrator is upset with Damian over an incident that occurred in Portugal years before, although the details of the incident are not revealed until nearly the end of the story. There is also some tension over a girl with whom the narrator was clearly in love – Serena Gresham.
The book describes the search for Damian’s possible offspring, and also explains the differing fates of several of the characters. It also gives plenty of description of upper class society in the late 1960s. The narrator notes that the 60s for many people were not all free love and flower power, and describes debutantes’ balls and posh parties galore. The era was explained in great detail, which I found very interesting to read about.
I ended up really liking the narrator and finding him to be a believeable character. It was clear to see how he had mellowed and matured in the intervening years between the two periods of time which the book covers. Damian himself was not a particularly sympathetic character, but I did feel that the reader could understand him much better by the end of the book.
Some parts of the book were very moving, and some were very funny. The whole description of Terry Vitkov’s ball had me in fits of laughter, while another part where the narrator finds out some distressing news almost had me in tears.
I would highly recommend this book. I now want to seek out ‘Snobs’ by the same author.