Laura and Ben are student lovers who meet again some 20-plus years and several responsibilities later in Winchester. Laura has given up Paris to look after her frail, elderly mother; Ben, who is in a flagging, painfully childless marriage, is keeping an eye on his brother and his alarmingly late-blossoming sex life.
This being a Patrick Gale novel, unusual scenarios and obscure diseases abound: Laura’s mother, Prof Harriet Jellicoe, is an eminent virologist and naturist who enjoys gardening in the nude, even when it’s raining; Ben’s (gay) brother Bobby has the Mosaic (milder) variant of Downs Syndrome and Ben is not any old doctor, but one that deals, often squalidly and horribly fascinatingly, in sexual health.
Laura and Ben are ecstatic at finding each other again, but there is a feeling of limitation hanging over their passionate reunion, as neither can be free from guilt. As the title suggests, the story, written with Gale’s trademark tenderness and elegiac prose, covers the events of one day. It is more a novella, slim and satisfying, and the end will catch you completely unaware.