From the Booker Award-winning writer, a swift narrative that turns on the death of a vivid and particular woman, and becomes the occasion for a man's deeper examination of love, friendship and the mysteries of biography. "I'll remember Elizabeth Finch when most other characters I've met this year have faded." —John Self, The Times (UK) This novel of unrequited platonic love takes aim at the singular character of the exacting Elizabeth Finch. When Neil, adrift in his 30s, takes her adult education class on Culture and Civilization, he becomes deeply fascinated by this private, withholding yet commanding woman. While other personal relationships and even his children drift from his grasp, Neil hangs tight to Finch and her unorthodox application of history and philosophy to the practical matters of daily living. As much as he wants to figure her out intellectually, he want to please her. Both are impossible. In Neil's story, readers are treated to everything they cherish in Barnes: his eye for the unconventional forms love can take, a compelling swerve into nonfiction (this time through Neil's obsessive study of Julian the Apostate, following the trail of crumbs Elizabeth Finch has left for him), and the forcefully moving undercurrent of history and biography as both nourishment and guide in our daily lives. Finch is a character who challenges the reader as much as her students to think for themselves, and leaves us searching for a way to deal with one of her simplest of ideas: "Some things are up to us, and some things are not up to us."