Here, Eric inhabits a room like Carmela’s in “The Four Seasons”, in the Unwins’ home: the kind “assigned to someone’s hapless, helpless paid companions, who would have marvelled at the thought of its lending shelter to a dying man”.
And Eric is dying, like the father in “The End of the World”.
But this is a story of Bougainvillea and deck chairs too, a story set in Rivabelle (or Rivabella, depending whether one emphasizes the French or Italian Riviera connection), in this “paler version of colonial life”.
Because everything is paler here.
“His blood was white (that was how he saw it), and his lungs and heart were bleached, too, and starting to disintegrate like snowflakes. He was a pale giant, a drained Gulliver, cast upon the beach, open territory for invaders.”
“They seemed to her and perhaps to each other thin and dry, like Alec.”
There are three of them, whom their mother, Barbara, wanted to name differently (Giles and Nigel for the boys, Samantha for the girl).
They are ten, eleven, and twelve years old, when the story opens. But time and space are changing, here in the this new place, far from England, far from the familiar.