Gilmour's follow-up to 2013's The Convalescent tells the story of a retired couple who move into a cottage on the shores of Holy Loch, which is dominated by the American military presence.

Submarines slide in and out of the loch, the installation in which they are maintained looms ominously over the water and the tranquillity of the surroundings is regularly shattered by low-flying planes.

At first, Douglas and Edith try to ignore the disruption as they have their own issues. Edith is in constant pain and confined to a wheelchair, dependent on her husband to perform all the mundane tasks she can't do herself. Douglas, meanwhile, has been having a long-term affair and, despite his best intentions, can't help but wonder how long it will be before Edith dies, freeing him to be with his lover.

The arrival of their son, Larry, forces them down a new path. Slinking back to the family home after his latest misadventure, he announces his plan to devise some grand gesture to coincide with a forthcoming protest march against the American base, a dramatic event that won't be brushed aside as easily as a mere demo. Douglas is dubious. As much as he would like to show solidarity with his son, marching is quite enough for him. He doesn't want to get involved in any direct action.

Edith, though - so limited in what her body will allow her to do, and in no doubt that she has little time left in this world - seizes upon her son's idea of carrying out an act that will make people sit up and take notice. His scheme is the kind of mad undertaking that most parents would try to talk their offspring out of. But they all recognise that it will bring some excitement and purpose into a life that Edith is finding hard to endure, as well as bringing them closer together as a family, and that's worth the consequences.

That said, there's something about the central trio - perhaps Edith's very writerly and self-conscious diary and Larry's speeches - which prevents them from springing off the page into life as fully believable characters. And the ending has a jarring shift in tone which shatters the mood of the book as much as it does the orderliness of the peace march. Still, it's a thoughtful, nuanced novel which explores the dynamic of a family in circumstances over which they have no control.