Faulks successfully recreates America in the late 1950s when Communism was the enemy and jazz music was all the rage.
Mary, a young English wife and mother of two small children, is happily married to Charlie van der Linden, a British diplomat, living in Washington. Into their seemingly perfect lives comes a brash American newspaper reporter, Frank, who develops a 'thing' for Mary. Before long, the two are embarking on a sordid affair in New York, away from the prying eyes of Charlie and the diplomatic circle in which they socialise.
While the story is well told and the setting truly evocative of a past era, I found it difficult to like any of the characters and hence cared little for their dilemmas and actions. The fact that Mary was so independent and freely able to visit New York alone without anyone raising an eyebrow - it was 1959 for god's sake - did not ring true. Given that her husband was a drunk and had emotional problems of his own, I still felt that a woman in that era would not have had the confidence or ability to travel solo, especially if she was married.
Leaving that aside, it was an interesting story, but definitely not of the same amazing standard in Faulks' other novels, Charlotte Gray and Birdsong.