Nigel Benson enjoys life’s luxuries: fine food & wine, antiquities, books, and of course women. 49 and still single, he lives with his sister in a beautiful country home. One day he meets the much-younger Caroline Crome, wife of his good friend Anthony. She treats him rudely, but sparks fly when they meet again in Paris a short time later. Caroline is bored by her marriage, and she has already been unfaithful to Anthony, so an affair with Nigel seems a fait accompli. Their travel itineraries conspire against them at first, and communicating by post leaves them both mopey and dissatisfied. When they are together, Nigel is seized by jealousy of the younger men in Caroline’s life. Even though she repeatedly professes her love for him, true happiness seems to always be just out of reach. But Anthony is clearly none the wiser:
Everyone had noticed the improvement in Caroline. It was amazing how she had changed, and in such a short time, too! All the things she used to set about with such ill grace, such as going to church, calling on the vicar’s wife, etc., she now accomplished with zeal and alacrity, Margaret was no longer scolded. Slaps were a thing of the past. She was charming to Anthony’s mother and had actually been seen studying a seed catalogue. Though he didn’t entirely ascribe this happy change to Nigel, Anthony was sure that his influence had counted for something. (p.119)
Eventually Nigel and Caroline tire of the constant deception and sneaking around, and decide they will break the news of their affair to Anthony. Certain events require them to postpone this dramatic act, and it seems Nigel & Caroline will just learn to live with the situation.
But Violet Trefusis has other ideas, and in the novel’s last 30 pages takes the reader on a rollercoaster ride. Up to this point I found Hunt the Slipper a pleasant read, but nothing really stood out. The final twists and turns left me breathless: will they stay together or won’t they? The ending was emotional and cleverly done, packing an unexpected punch.