Some ‘only’ children have revelled in that status. Iris Murdoch called her family unit ‘a perfect trinity of love’. Caroline Baum sees her family less happily as a triangle: ‘There’s something uncomfortable about a triangle: it’s all elbows, suggesting awkward unease.’ We find out in the following 380-odd pages the whats and whys of this discomfort. Some of it is historical; perhaps most is historical. Her father came to England with the Kindertransport. Her French mother had an equally traumatic but more singular childhood. Both were deprived of a normal family life as children.