Simon Chance, Anglican bishop and former missionary, has withdrawn in mid-life to research his enduring mentor Dante, creator of The Divine Comedy. He is recently widowed, after the prolonged descent into dementia of his devoted wife Marigold. To recuperate from bereavement, he is invited by a life-long confidante, Clare, to join a house party of several friends from their university days in the hills behind St Tropez in southern France. The reunion coincides with the collapse of global banking confidence.
On a walk in the forest of the Massif des Maures surrounding the villa, in search of a church abandoned centuries ago, Chance loses his way – in a ‘dark wood’, as once experienced by Dante – while the night turns wild.
Marigold has not been the only love of Chance. The passionate liaison of his earlier life, pre-ordination, was with a student botanist. This very Evie, with her Parliamentarian spouse, is about to join the house party of Clare and a vital element in that intense, abandoned youthful liaison is yet to be reconciled with Chance’s ordained self.
The working-through of the nature of love, physical and spiritual, in love’s innocence and purity, will redeem or destroy him. Or both.