Professor Howard Belsey has done something stupid. And what is more it is the stupid something which men his age seem programmed by cliché to act out. Exiled in his own home by the hurt and anger of his wife, and the disapproval of his three kids, Howard is about to see his role in the family further undermined by the arrival in their East Coast college town of Wellington, Mass, of his nemesis, British academic Monty Kipps.
Between the families of Belsey and Kipps there is a gulf – political, ideological, social and artistic – and that is the way Howard would like to keep it. But male lust and female friendship are powerful things, and the children and wives of Belsey and Kipps seem drawn to each other in spite of paternal rancour.
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Booker Prize Shortlist, 2005