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From the publisher
This intensely remembered, partly autobiographical novel, which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1989, describes the childhood of Billi, a girl growing up in Europe between the wars. When her father dies, she swaps life in a run-down German chateau for an exhilarating existence with her beautiful, talented and unreliable mother on the French Riviera. Sent away to England for schooling, the gypsy-like Billi ricochets between short-lived tutors and a life of reading, friends and public lectures. Returning to the Mediterranean, her unorthodox education - intellectual, emotional and sexual - continues among the vibrant community of artists, exiles and intellectuals who have colonised the coast, coaxing her towards a life of literature.