This is a supremely literary novel. Everyone in it is a reader and writer of some kind. Sugar has been busy putting together her own narrative of vengeance against the male species, the kind of thing that Dickens's Estella might have written if she had taken to literature. Agnes Rackham, meanwhile, has spent her parallel youth pouring out a gush of unremarkable thoughts to her Dear Diary, a multi-volumed document that Sugar reads compulsively for clues to the secrets of the house in which she and Agnes now live side by side. William, who at the start of the novel is still planning amusing little pieces for the better kind of gentleman's periodical, swiftly descends to tinkering with advertising copy and dashing off bullying letters to suppliers... In less able hands this updating might have resulted in a novel that felt tricksy without being especially innovative. But Faber's writing is so dizzyingly accomplished that he is able to convince you that, just sometimes, the old stories really are the best ones.