This novel shifts between the English countryside, California, Paris and Budapest. It follows the lives of Alec, a translator for Laszlo Lazar, who is caring for his dying mother, his brother Larry, an unemployed actor who is trying to keep his marriage together as his career takes a nosedive into the seedy world of pornographic films and Laszlo Lazar himself who gets involved in underground political activities.
Alec returned under the square of lights, and after standing a moment like a man who has entirely forgotten what he came for, he sank down with his back against one of the trees. He knew now, with a certainty that bordered upon relief, that he wasn't going to manage. No labour of the intelligence, no artifice or soft voice could help him. Losing Alice would not be difficult, it would be unendurable, and something in him would simply not survive it. With the others he would have to go on pretending for a while, but out here there were only bats and stars to see him, and he took off his glasses, folded them carefully, put his head in his hands, and wept.