It is set in an English private school (not state run) in a fairly typical small English town. The tension between the upper class and the lower public class is the main theme of the book. Our narrators are one of the Masters in the private school and Julian, who attends the State school although his father is the caretaker of the private school.
Julian is drawn to the bookish, privileged life of the private school and through stealth infiltrates the system. He adopts the uniform (found in lost property boxes) and sits in on classes. He's smart and loves learning and loves being in control of this 'game'.
As the story unfolds we discover Julian's infatuation with Leon, who is not currently around. It takes most of the book to discover what happened to him.
The story moves between Julian's childhood and adulthood, a story which as it unfolds tends to weave and dodge.
Overall I enjoyed this book although I felt a bit bogged down in the middle but once through, the story gains momentum to a fast paced ending with lots of twists. The main twist is not hard to guess but how we get there is sometimes surprising. Worth reading. It's made me want to read her other novels.