Acting Up, Paperback

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The Andersons are a military family with honours and traditions stretching back two hundred years. When the second Iraq war breaks out, it is only natural that their newest generations should be represented in the ranks of British officers: at 24, Lieutenant Susie Anderson delays her wedding to handsome fellow-officer Callum and joins her regiment on the hot sands of Kuwait. Brother Francis, meanwhile, continues his cabaret career as Madam Fanny Fantoni, drag chanteuse and net-stockinged vamp, with a stinging line in repartee and the most remarkable falsetto top C in Clapham. As the neighbours agree, it must be terribly difficult for their poor parents, especially the General. Real difficulties come, though, when Callum comes home injured, altered and bitter, and Susie and her family feel as though their lives are shattered. The solution to this tangle comes from the most unlikely source of all.

Set against a background of desert war, seedy clubs, a hippie sailing-ship and quiet English village life, Libby Purves' latest novel is a commentary on changing social roles, the nature of courage and the futility of prejudice.

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