Page 27. " I'd arranged a few flowers because I like to do that anyway "

Another gender-tease, edging the reader towards the traditionally feminine side of the fence.

Page 28. " I'd paint her hair as a swarm of butterflies. A million Red Admirals "
Swarm of Monarch Butterflies
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeSwarm of Monarch Butterflies - Credit: Jjron at en.wikipedia

In Greek mythology, the goddess Psyche is most commonly represented by a butterfly, hence the association of the butterfly with the soul. The butterfly is also seen as a symbol of transformation, of good luck and of beauty.

The Red Admiral is a colourful butterfly, found in Europe, Asia, and North America.


Red Admiral Butterfly
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeRed Admiral Butterfly - Credit: Anne Burgess
Page 29. " There are plenty of legends about women turning into trees "

Apollo and Daphne
Public DomainApollo and Daphne - Credit: John William Waterhouse
One such story is the Greek myth of the nymph Daphne, who turned into a tree to escape the amorous attentions of the god Apollo.

Page 31. " The Marriage of Figaro "

 The Marriage of Figaro is a comic opera by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, based on a stage play by Pierre Beaumarchais.

Listen on Spotify: The Marriage of Figaro


Page 32. " He was born an Orthodox Jew "

Orthodox Judaism favours a strict interpretation of, and adherence to, the laws set out in the Talmud. Orthodox Jews are supposed to observe several core practices and are prohibited from certain sexual practices, amongst them adultery and homosexuality.

It has already been suggested that Elgin is a masochist, and we later find out that he uses prostitutes, thus committing adultery. Since we do not know the gender of the narrator we cannot tell whether or not his/her relationship with Louise is a homosexual one, and therefore whether Elgin's reaction to it is further affected by his religious beliefs.

Page 32. " Stamford Hill "

Stamford Hill is an area of the London Borough of Hackney. It is home to a large Jewish community.

See Setting.


Google Map
Page 32. " the British Museum "
British Museum
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeBritish Museum - Credit: Valtteri Päivinen
 The British Museum is located on great Russell Street in London. It hosts a vast collection of over seven million objects, gathered from across the globe, representing human history and culture.
Page 33. " the glory that was Greece "

The Elgin Marbles at the British Museum
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeThe Elgin Marbles at the British Museum - Credit: Andrew Dunn, 3 December 2005.
Louise's husband, Elgin, was so named after his mother was emotionally moved by the Parthenon Sculptures (or 'Elgin Marbles') in the Greece exhibit at the British Museum.

Page 35. " between themselves and the gas chamber "
Aushwitz gas chamber and memorial
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeAuschwitz gas chamber and memorial - Credit: Black Stripe at en.wikipedia

During the Second World War, over six million European Jews were murdered by Nazi Germany. Many of them died in the gas chambers of the Holocaust.

Page 35. " Frummers "

'Frum' is a Yiddish word, meaning devout, pious. The term 'Frummer' can be used in a derogatory sense, to mean someone who is overly concerned with the technicalities of their religious prescriptions and prohibitions. The word has the same negative connotations as 'holier-than-thou'.

Page 35. " Matzos "

Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeMatzo - Credit: Roban Kramer
 Matzo is a type of cracker-bread, made from plain flour and water, eaten during the Jewish holiday of Passover when leavened bread products are forbidden.

Page 35. " he sent them a Christmas Card "

By sending his Orthodox Jew parents a Christmas Card, Elgin is mocking them and their faith.

Page 35. " off-duty Viyella shirt "

Viyella is a fabric made from a wool-cotton blend.

Invented in 1893, it was the first fabric to become a brand name.

Page 36. " listening to Wagner "

Richard Wagner was a 19th century German composer, best known for his operas. Wagner's music was admired by Adolf Hitler, and appropriated by the Nazis to promote their own ideologies.

Listen on Spotify: The Mastersingers of Nuremberg


Page 37. " like something from Poe "

 Edgar Allan Poe was a 19th century writer, most famous for his macabre and mysterious short stories and poetry.

Here the narrator is evoking a disembodied or possessed hand with a life of its own.


Page 39. " a straight Macallan "

The Macallan is a type of single-malt scotch whisky.

Page 41. " the way Lauren Bacall does in those films with Humphrey Bogart "

American actress Lauren Bacall married film star Humphrey Bogart in 1945, after they starred in a movie together.

It's interesting to note that the narrator, on this occasion, is identifying with the behaviour of a woman.

Page 41. " pushing my private parts right into the head of the snake "

This is another gender-tease, leaving the reader asking: what type of genitals is the narrator afraid for?

Page 44. " lover's half-nelson "

A half-nelson is a type of hold used in wrestling.

Page 44. " Rumpelstiltskin "

Public DomainRumpelstiltskin - Credit: Anne Anderson
 Rumpelstiltskin is a character from a German fairy-tale of the same name.

Page 44. " Uriah got NSU from a woman he slept with "

In the Bible (as in this story), Uriah was the husband of Bathsheba. This would suggest that the narrator is concealing their real names from the reader, and therefore has possibly changed other names too.

NSU stands for 'non-specific urethritis', a sexually transmitted infection that is often caused by, or leads to, chlamydia. Since the reader has already been told that Bathsheba only gave the narrator 'emotional clap', this revelation again suggests his/her unreliability as a storyteller.

Page 47. " have their teeth removed to Vivaldi "

 Antonio Lucio Vivaldi was an 18th century Italian composer.

Listen on Spotify: Vivaldi Oboe Concerto in C