A love story spanning 20 years in the lives of the Wexfords, a family whose world is filled with coincidences both fortuitous and horrifying.
Helen Lally is 22, the stunning daughter of an impoverished artist whose fame and fortune will soon be made. Woe to her for catching the eye of Clifford Wexford, a 35-year-old art dealer, rapaciously ambitious, eminently eligible and careless of all lives but his own. In the space of nine months in the ever-so-swinging '60s, Helen and Clifford meet, fall instantly in love, marry and produce the enchanting Nell. But there the want changes hands, as it will, time and again, in the course of this seductively high-spirited move. 'Someone, somewhere, must be wicked,' says the narrator, 'or the world wouldn't be in the state it's in.'
Clifford falls prey to a scheming heiress; the perfect marriage ends in divorce; and little Nell, due to her parents' fecklessness and avarice, is lost. Lost to them, that is, until years later, when they have learnt enough to deserve her.
Written in a writer's prime, in a state of grace, The Hearts and Lives of Men is a modern fable for grown-ups. Good triumphs over evil; true love outlasts lust and greed; and if some people are beyond redemption, the justice they are dealt is perfectly created and deeply satisfying.