This book is not a light read. It is heavy, layered, rich and in some parts indigestible. Yes, like the best Christmas cake. It contains not only literary references, but scientific and historical ones. One is expected to know who Carolus Linnaeus was, and Galton, and Lyle. One is expected to smile at elevated jokes and nod at passing references to evolution theory, history of science, philosophy. One is expected to remember the trials and tribulations that related to literary fads such as deconstructionism and post-colonial feminism. However, there are other layers, that allow those readers intent on a story to find a narrative that engages. There is the eternal search for romance, the confusion and wonderment that accompanies a change in career direction. There is the uncertainty that comes when one meets a gay couple, or when one meets a person with a definite hard-wired hardcore sexual perversion. A S Byatt uses research like some people use mayonnaise. This is the novel you read not so much to pass the time, but to relish and savour, to wonder at in awe. How can one person have at one's disposal such a wealth and weight of knowledge? And... what have I missed by not knowing what was necessary to know?