I really wanted to like this book. It sounds like such fun: a woman who never leaves her London flat, but uses satellite technology to travel the world, starts getting letters from her dead boyfriend. She sets out to solve the mystery of where they're coming from with help from a former debt collector called Audley.

A quirky, promising start. But the main character, Oceane, is so cold — regarding most people as mere curiosities — that she is difficult to like. Certainly, she is hard to identify with.

Fischer, who was born in England to Hungarian parents, writes like someone for whom English is a second language. This has two effects: the occasional gem of a sentence, and many jarring moments.


Oceane prefers to stay in her flat because she can't be bothered with the outside world's inconveniences, not because she is afraid of them. She reckons she's met enough people to keep her amused for a lifetime. "Even the super-rich and the superfamous, who have stadiums full of admirers to munch on them, have their steady companions. The emotional world will always be a village."

By the end it is apparent that the book's point is not to solve the mystery of the letters at all, although Fischer, after over 200 pages of wild invention, offers a fairly mundane explanation. However, the ending presents one nice nugget: "Home can never be a place, only a person." How true.

* Eleanor Black is a canvas writer

* Vintage, $26.95