In the City of Love’s SleepLavinia GreenlawFaber and Faber The third novel by the poet and memoirist Lavinia Greenlaw is an ambitious work, both refined and unsettling. Its heroine, Iris, a 46-year-old museum conservator, is in the throes of separating from her faithless husband, David, and the two are fielding, roughly, the distress of their little girls. The novel’s hero is Raif, a widower and academic who specialises in the history of science. Both Iris and Raif are wounded, uneasy and remote. Raif’s grief has rendered him numb, a state to which he isn’t entirely unsuited. His reaction to life events, “I don’t know what this means”, has become habitual, a resting place almost. Raif is about to permit his girlfriend Helen to move into his flat, although he barely registers her existence. Meanwhile, Iris is busy wondering whether to reconcile with her husband. Mending and preservation are at the heart of her museum job, but does she really want to bring her work home? David is unwe...

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