Nick and Fran move into an old house with their family: Miranda, thirteen, Nick's daughter from a previous marriage (her mother has been hospitalized with depression); eleven-year-old Gareth, Fran's son (who was almost aborted); and a toddler, Jasper, the child of both. Fran is pregnant again. Nick tries to hold them together as a family, but must also take care of Geordie, his grandfather, who is dying of cancer at the age of 101.

Geordie believes that what's killing him is a bayonet wound he received in World War I. As his disease progresses, the old man relives the war, especially the battle in which his brother died, with increasing vividness. After Geordie's death, Nick learns that in the battle he had killed his wounded brother who may, he thinks, otherwise have survived.

Geordie tells the story in an interview with a historian working on memory and war, and confesses that he hated his brother. She gently tells him that "a child's hatred" is different, but he--like the novel itself--refuses to see this as mitigation. Geordie's tale resonates both with what Nick learns about the house he bought--in 1904 the older children of the family living there were believed to have murdered their two-year-old sibling--and with Gareth and Miranda's resentment of Jasper, which has near-fatal consequences.


As well as presenting a convincing account of a war veteran's death from cancer, a death haunted by the trauma of the war, this novel provides an unflinching, at times melodramatic, but chillingly perceptive view of sibling rivalry and marital resentment. The book's title seems ironic because, rather than being "another world," the war remembered by Geordie seems almost continuous with the domestic life that Barker presents as an often-violent struggle for survival. Love, when it does arise (and it always does, somehow, in the work of being family) is all the more remarkable for this contrast.


Viking, Penguin

Place Published

New York



Page Count