Wouldn’t you feel cheated if the woman you’d imagined was the villain of your childhood turned out to be someone rather extraordinary?
Edwardian Brighton. A wide-eyed girl enters Mr Parker’s photographic studio and receives her first lesson about the rising medium that is to shape her life: “Can you think of a really good memory? Perhaps you can see it when you close your eyes. Now think how much better it would be if you could take it out and look at whenever you wanted to!”
2009: Disgraced politician Sir James Hastings has resigned himself to living out his retirement in a secluded Surrey village. He doesn’t react when he learns that the mother who had abandoned him dies at the age of 108: he imagined she had died many years ago. Brought up by his father, a charismatic war-hero turned racing driver, the young James, torn between blaming himself and longing, eventually dismissed her as the ‘villain’ of his childhood. But, when he inherits her life’s work – a photography collection spanning over six decades – he is forced to both confront his past and re-evaluate what he wants from his old age. Assisted by student Jenny Jones, who has recently lost her own mother to cancer, Sir James is persuaded to look at the photographs as if he is seeing through his mother’s eyes, only to discover an extraordinary tale of courage and sacrifice.
“Three. I have three stories,” Lottie Parker tells her solicitor while putting her affairs in order. “But it was Oscar Wilde who said that a story is almost certainly a lie.”