- Joe Rose (narrator) picnics in Chiltern Hills with partner of 7 years (Clarissa Mellon)-when a hot air ballon escapes from anchor and he joins 4 other men (2farmers=Joseph Lacey&Toby Greene, a doctor=John Logan and a young man=Jed Parry in an attempt to help James Gadd(the owener of ballon and who's grandson is stuck in the balloon) bring the ballon under control in extreme wind to try and save the boy, Harry.
- Each of the men grab a rope when a gust of wind lifts the balloon higher into the air and each man drops consecutively apart from Logan who keeps hold as the balloon keeps rising due to lack of weight/strong wind. Then his grip begins to loosen at over 50 yards up and he drops to the ground and dies.
- Rose refuses to believe/accept that it could've been him who let go off the balloon first although he doesnt know who it was. He feels extremely guilty for Logan's death and tries to cover up the guilt by defending himself of the fact that he didnt let go first, knowing that if noone let go Logan would've most likely survived.
- Before incident Joe was going to propose to Clarissa-incident is a sign of the start of his life+relationship being turned upside down.
- Joe bought bad wine for such an occasion as a proposal could be seen as mockery towards Clarissa seeing as he's a well educated man or could show the potential fail of their relationship/him not caring and not making everything perfect.
• Reactions to accident- complete shock, Joe worst affected. After preliminary discussion with others and Clarissa, Joe sets off towards the area where logan fell.
• Joe states his disbelief of Logan's death and how he believes John will have a miraculous recovery from the fall and does not believe he is dead until he gets to the body and describes it.
• Although Joe asked if anyone was coming with him to Logan but everyone stayed silent so he went by hi,self and Parry eventually followed him but not at Joes initial pro,pting
• After awkward conversation, Jed invites Joe to pray with him repeatedly but Joe refuses each time, we find out that Rose is not religious and Parry is (the startpoint of Joe's life being turned upside down).
• The police arrive.
- Joe+Clarissa return to their London flat and repeatedly relive/retalk the ballooning accident constantly moving towards and away from Logan's death
- A talk of the fact that Joe/Clarissa dont have kid surfaces and it's due to Clarissa not being able to have kids as a result of an operation that she believes mitakened her for someone else although this wasnt proved
- Joe talks about his godchildren and how kids have always been a part of their life
- They 'make love' to try and forget their part in what happened and then talk abouttheir childhoods
- They then invite friends and re-tell them the events of the incident until they leave at 1am.
- Joe and Clarissa go to bed at 2am and the phone rings 5 minutes after; it was Jed Parry confessing his love for Joe, Rose hangs up and tells Clarissa it was a wrong number.
- Next day and the events of incident still in the air, Clarissa leaves for work (lecturer) at university whilst Joe who seems to work from home writes an article on the hubble telescope
- Joe takes a taxi to soho for an interview with a radio producer about potential programme on supermarket vegetables. Joe tells producer about the incident but he's not interested.
- After joe goes to the London library to read Darwin's contemporaries, masters of narrative science and feels a sense of aprehension, due to paranoia from incident Joe becomes adgitated by someone making noise in the library
- Joe sees a white shoe and something red as this noisemaker leaves, Rose goes outside to see who it was (feels uneasy) as he thinks it's Parry following him. Then he replaces a knocked over flowerpot marking the spot where Yvonne Flethcer wa shot outside the Libiyan embassy and then goes back to the library without seeing anyone.
- Later that same day, after his second meeting about judging a science book prize, Joe returns home to the flat desperate to talk to Clarissa about Jed (phonecall/believed appearance in library) but she isnt home as she went to see her brother.
- He attempts to do work to relieve his anxietywriting about the narrative science of 19th century being replaced by theoretical science of 20th century, conceding that it's possible to write different/contradictory narratives of this development
- Before doing so he convinces himself that Parry was following him in the library and calls him but it goes to his answer machine and then Joe mocks Parry about his beliefs about God etc.
- Joe gets a scare as he hears someone walking up bnehind him-thinking it was Parry that broke into his house but it was actually Clarissa
- Clarissa tells Joe about her brother's (Luke's) infidelity and his upcoming divorce=his middle life crisis
- Joe doesnt tell Clarissa about Parry and unplugs the phone to keep him away.
- The next morning, Joe talks briefly about architecture and then goes on to describe his and Clarissa's apartment building, whilst having coffee up on their bare/empty roof garden at 7am as he thinks over the accident blames himself for killing John and then and continuosly reassures himself that he wasnt the one that let go first so is not guilty for Logan's death whilst Clarissa is sleeping.
- Clarissa joins him (he doesnt realise until she sits down) then he tells her about Jed's phone call and the London library incident: she laughs and doesn't take it seriously and doesnt believe Joe when he says that Parry was following him at the library as Rose didnt see his face but is certain it was him from a glimpse at a shoe with a red lace (unreliable). Clarissa gets ready to leave and tries to make Joe feel better but he feels like a mental hospital admitee when she leaves. Jed phones as soon as she leaves asking Joe to meet him. Joe agrees after much reluctence and asks where Parry is to which he replies im at te phonebox at the end of your road (stalking) joe was in shock but agreed to meet him around there.As he left he was comforted by Clarissa's perfume that lingered on the stairs.
- Joe meets Parry on the pavements outside his apartment, and as Rose begins to walk towards him Parry seems to be embarassed/uneasy and hides under a tree and doesnt look Joe in the eye. As Joe comes closer they shake hands and describes Jed as young enough to be his son then asks what he wants.But Parry insists of going insede to speak
- But then after encouragement from Rose he begins to talk what seems nonsense to Joe before stating that he loves Jed and then states that he can'd do anything but love him back- Joe opposes him and disagrees stating he has no feelings for Parry. Then goes on to ask whether Parry was following him in the library but Parry stays quiet and turns around however Joe takes this as confirmation (unreliable).
- Jed then tells him that his mission is to bring him back to God through their love but claims that Joe was the one to instigate this situation and is now manipulating and controlling Parry. Joe feels himself being drawn into a relationship with Jed, although not the type that Jed is after.
- Then he observes Parry and sees him to be rather feminine and sees that there's little danger that he presents and Joe loses his patience and got a cab where Parry seemed to have questioned him like a child would before Parry grabs hold of the cab and mentions dealing with what he sees to be a problem which is Clarissa.
- In the taxi set off to Bloomsbury to pick up a book, Joe reflects on the event with Parry and that he wasn't a threat but rather an annoynce and in his head begins to agree wit Clarissa that this situation is rather amusing. Then, based on an article he is due to write on the smile, discusses how the standard social science model of the mid-twentieth century is being superseded by the more hard-core sciences of evolutionary psychology, neo-Darwinism and genetics (multiple references to children in this chapter maybe he's reflecting on his childless relationship) - a development Clarissa rejects.
- Joe then talks about John Keats who he is not supportive of much and domestic drama (Clarissa's idol/research basis-her job is about Keats and that's why she was in America) Clarissa represents love/relationships in novel where as Joe represents science/logic/control in the novel. Then he reflects on when they spoke about their relationship+the fact that they didnt have babies although they want children in their lives, then he got the book from Dillons and then because he was excited about writing he took a cab home,where Parry was waiting for him and as he describes the setting there's an intentiol sexual innuendo in his description of the path and the key.
- Jed phones him repeatedly about God and his love for Joe throughout the day when Joe goes inside and he set the phone to the answering machine and looked at himself in the mirror and realised that this situation would not be over in a day just like the ballooning accident but was actually a startpoint.
- Joe calls the police from the fax but they don't take it seriously as there is no eveidence of actual harm/harassment towards Joe by Parry and then Joe himself realised that there was nothing they could do and almost felt stupid for calling them. Joe then fills us in on his past that he was a failed theoretical physicist that turned into sciencejournalist, regretting the parasitical nature of his trade, and wishing to get back to his old life.Throughout Parry's presence outside Rose's house he kept looking through the window and moving the curtains to which Parry later refers in one of the 29 phone calls when Joe listens back not reaising what the movement of the curtains meant to Parry. He then returns to think about his career and how he can back to his research before he's 50(not happy with current job).
- Chapter 9 is told retrospectively, presumably from Clarissa's point of view but is still narrated by Joe in 3rd person Rose is self-aware and judgemntal/self-concious in this chapter.
- Clarissa returns home, we're told that she's had a bad day, feels ill, and just wants a bath and for Joe to look after her and she is still thinking about the balloon accident more than ever; but he tells her all about Jed and Joe's desire to get back into theoretical physics, giving her no space.
- She doesn't believe him about the former, going as far as to suggest Joe might have invented him, and is doubtful about his plans as Joe had deleted the messages on the answer machine(p83).
- Clarissa tells him that he's making this a bigger deal than it is and that he should relax and they have an argument (not their usual relationship) as he doesnt understand that she needs her space after having a bad day but rather she thinks that hes telling her about his terrible day, and Joe narrates in 3rd person as if Clarissa and him were in a play in this specific situation and then he insults her and the argument continues until he storms out of the apartment only to meet Parry waiting for him at the end of the brick path.
- Jed follows Joe and tries to talk to him about his feelings for him and Joe rejcts him and continues asking when Parry is going to leave him alone and Parry starts crying and at points Joe confesses to almost feel sorry for him as he did before.
- Joe imagines he is someone else, and tries to recall the significance of the curtain reference as Parry calls it a single twice this makes Rose think about it more.
- Joe begins to think about Clarissa andloses Jed as he leaves on a jog down a road whilst Parry was busy crying.
- Chapter 11 is a letter from Parry to Rose in which he tells Rose about his love for him and begs him for forgiveness. Then begins to talk about his past and tells Joe his story, intertwining this with his feelings/love for Joe throughout the letter.
- Parry then brings up that Carissa makes the situation between him and Joe awkward before talking about Joe brushing the top of the hedge with his hand which Jed saw as a sign from Rose
- Jed fills in Joe on what he calls his 'ocean surface' - from ordinary family but living in a palatial house in Hampstead due to a crook of an uncle - having already revealed to him his 'ocean floor' - his soul. He reiterates his mission (to 'mend [Joe's] rift with God through the healing power of love'), mentions again the problem of Clarissa, apologises for what he sees as rejecting Joe on their first encounter after the ballooning accident and then states that his house is waiting for Rose and asks for Joe's forgiveness.
- Rose opens the chapter by speaking about him being a failure in science he then sets of to Oxford to see John Logan's wife, Jean Logan.
- Flashback he recounts his breakfast conversation with Clarissa about Jed's letter, a conversation in which it appears they have very different views about the situation and are drifting apart because of it.
- Joe begins to suspect that she has a lover and, after a long discussion of 'unacknowledged self-persuasion', finds himself in her study and going through her private letters.
- After a brief flash return to the journey narrative, there is a brief flash forward to Clarissa's return home that night and the arrival of a letter the following morning turning down his bid to re-enter the world of theoretical physics. Back in the journey narrative, he approaches Jean Logan's house and begins to realise his true motives for the visit.
- .Joe arrives at the Logan houseand the subplot begins, he describes the woman he's greeted by (Jean Logan) in quite a negative light-in a sense that she looks tired/not really there.
- When inside he goes on to describe the interior of the house also negatively, could be due to jealousy as this type of house only professors had and he's a failed scientist so feels jealous and also describes everything in huge detail as he is slightly uncomfortablebeing there.
- They then have a brief talk and she asks why he has come as she doesnt want any condolence and then he goes back to describing her appearance then replies to her questions then Joe compares his situation to hers and realises that they're mere complications compared to hers.
- She then questions Joe about Logan's car doors at the time of accident and is suspicious that there was someone with him at the time, she clearly suspects her husband was having an affair.
- She then shows him the evidence that she has from the car to prove her suspicions, a rosewater smelling scarf and the ingredients for a picnic (niether of them hers) althugh Joe doesnt seem to agree/believe/share her suspicions.
- She needs certainty, despite knowing it will be painful, and wants revenge and is not afraid to find due to her determination she admits to wanting to kill her if she finds her.
- Joe is still at the Logan house and has a moment to reflect,he thinks about Clarissa and her views on him as a potential father,their godchildren and his own childhood.
- He then sees the Logan kids and engages in a discussion of moral relativism with the Logan children.
- Jean states that even though she wasnt there at time of accident she knows more than Rose and asks him to contact the others present at the ballooning accident to see if they have any information.
- She then tells him her theory of why John Logan died - not, as Joe fears, because he or one of the others let go of the ropes too soon; but because Logan was showing off to his new woman, and trying to deny the aging process.
- This conversation takes place over the noise of the children playing with the curtains, which triggers Joe remembering about De Clerambault's syndrome about King George the 5th and a woman that was with the disease and how she saw a fletch of the curtains in buckingham palace as a sign from a King that he loved her- a piece of knowledge to cling onto that could potentially explain Parry's obsession with Rose.
- On the way from Oxford, Joe revisits the place of the balloon accident and makes up a scenario of a woman being there with Logan at time of accident and then reinacts how he behaved on the day of accident.
- He then makes the return home and although expecting him to be there Rose got a fright seeing Parry waiting for him and rather than letting him go into the house Parry obstructs the way and gives him an envelope.
- He then tells him that he spent the previous evening reading Joe's 35 articles (which he got from a researcher that he paid). Joe feels slightly threatened by Jed's claim that he can pay to get what he wants.
- When he finally gets into the apartment he senses that Clarissa is home and goes looking for her in each room
- Clarissa is angry and is waiting in his study to confront Joe about his going through her private letters.
- Parry sends Rose another letter in which he criticises Joe's work as an attack on God but is more determined and sure of what he sees as his ultimate victory. He reassures Joe that he will always be there for him, and warns him against trying to pretend that Jed doesn't exist.
- Within the letter he makes a reference to death saying that they can only be happy when in "Paradise" which can be reffered to heaven, so he is stating that they will not be happy/together until they meet in heaven so until they dies.
- Joe is in bed with Clarissa, thinking he is enjoying a recovery of their disappearing intimacy.This narrative is interspersed with details about Jed's other (frequent) letters and loitering, reflections on Jed's character and behaviour. Joe scanned the letters to find another occurence of the previosuly made threat in chapter 16 and researched firther about the disease.After seeing Parry on multiple accounts with a tape recorder attached to himself, Joe realised that Parry didnt come towards him, he realised that it ws up to Parry's thoughts etc to decide when or where they will meet/talk and his letters were unaffected by Joe's behaviour even though he tried to leave signs like touching the bush.
- He then talks about the fact that Clarissa wasnt mentioned in Parry's letters anymore.Although Clarissa said that she thought they were finished Joe thought about multiple things but did not say them to her, rather he said nothing because he didnt feel anything and his thoughts jumped from Clarissa to Jean Logan as he associated both these woman to a category within which he owed something to as they believed themselves to be wronged.Joe then talks about the phonecalls that he made as promised for Jean, to Toby Greene, who wasnt much help and then James Gadd wasn't helpful either. Then he phoned Lacey and he insisted not to talk about it on the phone and they arranged a time to meet.
- He then asks Clarrisa about the car doors, she said 2 were open but she saw no one but Logan only.Joe then drifts off to think about the only person left,Parry who he believes to be closest to the car than anyone else and Clarissa begins to question him about Parry and his existence and makes a reference to the handwriting of the letters (later find out that she believes it's similar to Joe's) ahe then tells him it's over and moves herself and her things to the children's room in their apartment.
- It's the day of Clarissa's birthday, he states that she believes he's unhinged, as she leaes for work Rose wraps er present that he's planning to give to her at lunch with her godfather (Kale).
- Then Joe prepares a file for the police of what he sees as Jed's threats, but his interview with Duty Inspector Linley gets him nowhere as the inspector asks multiple questions to which joe answers with no and the inspector did not take his claim seriously/mocked him.
- Joe, remembering that he was late for lunch and gets a taxi. Then thinks over the interview, tells the reader he tried to inform the police twice and he wont try again.
- He then reminisces over genetics and evolution.
- Clarissa's birthday lunch to which Joe arrives late with her godfather and tells the reader that from what he can remeber all the food they ordered was red. Kale gives Clarissa her present - a double helix brooch - and regales them with tales of the discovery of DNA.
- Whilst Kale was speaking Joe's thoughts wondered off, and he found himself looking at the tables next to theirs at the lunch and thinks about how he wants to tell of what happened with the inspector but couldn't.
- Joe finally gives her his present - a first edition of Keats's Poems of 1817.
- He then goes on describing the people at the next table to the reader and he taks about chaos the reader at this point doesnt know what it is and in his mind warns the table next to him that they should leave.
- He then assumes the two men that he saw after the chaos were walking towards their table by now although he doesnt know and then talks about the two things he's certain about(sorbet&daydreams) and then tells a story that neither of his company is listening to.
- Rose then describes the two men as they stopped at the table next to theirs and Rose describes what happened in the next few moments before the chaos.
- Then a man(Tapp) in the party of three on the next table is shot and wounded, and a lone man (Jed Parry) at another table prevents the would be assassin from finishing off his victim.
- Back at the police station for the second time that day, Joe was grateful and relived that at last the truth will out, Joe is shocked to discover that his version of events is not believed by the police - not helped by the fact that everyone's version is slightly different.
- Joe reflects on the impossibility of objective truth when he returns home he searches for Parry but he is not there.
- Back at the flat Joe searches through his address book, finally finding the person - Johnny B Well - most likely to be able to get him what he wants - a gun. Chapter
- Joe and Johnny go to pick up the gun from Johnny's ex-hippy contacts, Steve, Xan and Daisy. After a tense and violent encounter Joe leaves with the gun only to be phoned by Jed who is in Joe's flat with Clarissa.
- Joe stops in some woods to try out the gun and also has a strange moment/logical event , races back to London, enters the flat and, after some tense moments with Jed and a knife, shoots Jed in the elbow.
- No charges are pressed against Joe, but he lives with an enduring image of Clarissa's expression of 'repulsion and surprise' at his using a gun.
- He leaves us with the thought of him and Clarissa's relationships maybe really be over.
- Clarissa sends Joe a letter whilst acknowlidging that he was in some ways right about Jed Parry, and that he has saved her life, Clarissa nevertheless still blames Joe for the way he has handled the situation, and fundamentally sees it as his fault.
- From her point of view Joe, as well as Jed, has serious problems.
- Joe and Clarissa drive to Oxford to see Jean Logan, ten days after the shooting and the day after Joe's meeting with Joseph Lacey.
- They talk awkwardly and impersonally about Keats, electric cars and life on Mars before arriving at Mrs Logan's. After a picnic by the Thames they are joined by James Reid, Euler Professor of Logic, and Bonny Deedes, his student.
- Reid explains that Bonny is his 'mistress', and was not Logan's, who was merely giving them a lift after their car had broken down. The main narrative ends with Jean Logan's daughter Rachael asking Joe to tell her brother Leo about the river.
- A fictionalised scientific paper on De Clerambault's syndrome. Including a case study of 'P' (presumably Jed Parry) and his obsession with 'R' (Joe Rose), the partner of 'M' (Clarissa Mellon).
- The case study discusses, in a relentlessly scientific discourse, the relationship between P's condition, his upbringing, his religion, and his sexuality, and reveals, amongst other things, that R and M's relationship survives, and that they go on to foster a child.
- Jed Parry's 3rd letter. Nearly three years on - a thousandth day of his sentence and his thousandth letter. Jed clearly believes that Joe is still sending him messages, and tells Joe how happy he is, and how he is still devoted to him.