Bernard Sands, “Grand Old Man of Letters”, is, at the start of the novel, enjoying his triumph over Civil Service bureaucracy: he has finally managed to establish a home for young writers at a nearby stately home, Vardon Hall. Although jubilant at this victory, all is not well at the Sands home: Ella, Bernard's wife, has long suffered from an isolating depression, daughter Elizabeth cynically uses her mindless job at a woman's magazine to conceal her sense of emptiness, Sands's son, James, is a right wing, social-climbing Tory candidate. Bernard himself is struggling to negotiate the demands of his lately discovered homosexuality. In addition to this shock, his agnostic, liberal-humanist, worldview has recently been undermined by a �…
MacKay, Marina. "Hemlock and After". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 08 January 2001; last revised 30 November -1.
[http://www.litencyc.com/php/sworks.php?rec=true&UID=4799, accessed 19 April 2015.]