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The sweet peas rambling through the borders are tended by a man who has lost half his face in the Great War.He wears a tin mask with one eye painted on, permanently open. The Spanish flu, which leaves “a pale bloody kind of froth, like cuckoo spit” bubbling from a baby’s blue nostril and a mother grieving like a savage.Ursula is the child of Sylvie and Hugh Todd whose Lutyens-esque home (surrounded by a Merchant Ivory checklist of meadow, copse and bluebell wood with a stream running through it) is called “Fox Corner”.Ever the literary trickster, Atkinson has picked a name that echoes both A A Milne’s Pooh Corner and E M Forster’s Windy Corner as the hub of a book that plays a virtuoso game with the nature of fiction.For in this fox’s corner, the past is neither a foreign country nor a safe haven in which the rawness of human pain and frailty are bandaged by the charms of a vintage wardrobe department.This fox corner is a place where the flesh of the human inhabitants is as vulnerable as that of the chickens destined for Mrs Glover’s pot.You’d think it would be wearing – unbearable, even – to keep reading the story of one life.

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We feel the panic of “Little lungs, like dragonfly wings failing to inflate in the foreign atmosphere. The buzzing of a thousand bees in the tiny curled pearl of an ear.” Darkness falls. There follows a storybook childhood near Beaconsfield with tennis on the lawn and Mrs Glover’s beef collops and plum pudding for tea.

In August, I received an email from Justin Mc Leod, the founder and C. “When your article, ‘Tinder and the Dawn of the ‘Dating Apocalypse’ came out,” he wrote, “it was the first among many realizations that Hinge had morphed into something other than what I originally set out to build (an app for real relationships).

of the dating app Hinge, informing me of a rather startling development.

Indeed with this book she’s both rattling at, and slipping through, the bars of fiction.

Life hurts just like this, and sometimes you will be screaming at fate and sometimes you’ll get on with it.

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