Alastair Jamieson is a cantankerous old recluse and an atheist. To his surprise and discomforture he finds himself surrounded by his dysfunctional family whereupon the old man does battle with his devout son, an ordained priest, on the issue of assisted suicide. The debate is heated but somewhat disjointed because both men are somewhat deaf. More
When Alastair Jamieson falls down and breaks his wrist, the incident sets in motion a sequence of events which have far reaching consequences. It brings several generations of his estranged family to congregate at his home - an old isolated stone house in a remote corner of north west Scotland where he has lived alone for many years and nurtured a reputation for being a bloody-minded antisocial curmudgeon. Alastair is also a determined atheist while his son Henry is a missionary and an ordained priest. So when Henry visits his father, falls down and breaks his leg in three places and has to convalesce in his father's house, the scene is set for theological battle of words on the topics of science and belief, on what the word 'existence' means and on Alastair's plans for his own assisted suicide. This battle of wills is not made any less vociferous by the fact that each man has difficulty in hearing what the other says. Alastair's daughter Claire is puzzled by the presence of graceful young woman called Eilidh. She turns up at the house from time to time to play pieces by Bach and Scarlatti on Alastair's antique spinet. Claire wants to know how this young girl has found such an honoured place in her father's life. So she researches her father's past life and discovers that far from being a recluse, he has led a turbulent life during which he survived some dramatic events in what used to be called the Belgian Congo (in the midst of a civil war), in Czechoslovakia (during the Prague Spring) and that he has had various dangerous scrapes with mountains and crevasses in Antarctica. Woven through the fabric of this history is the explanation of the emotional bond between Alastair and Eilidh, the enigmatic spinet player.