I've always wanted to write about people's obsessions with things. I've been fascinated by the way a collection can reflect a personality. And having attended—and bid desperately at—so many auctions, I have seen how objects—a tea cup or swath of yellowed lace—can take on so much more meaning than their intrinsic worth. I also love writing comedies of manners, and Cambridge, with its mind-boggling strata of academics, intellectuals, hippies, and drop-outs and ethnic enclaves, is a goldmine for any writer with an eye for social absurdity. Also, my husband, who is a lawyer, has talked often about disputes over goods and chattels that have caused huge tragic rifts in families. 'No object, no thing, can be worth such misery,' he always says.