[a condensed version of the novel]
Henry Perowne wakes early in a state of near euphoria. He gets up quietly in order not to disturb his wife, Rosalind, who lies sleeping. Like the neurosurgeon he is, he clinically dissects his mood. Has he perhaps become a little too smug and self-satisfied? No, he deserves to be extremely rich and happy.
"Hello birds, hello trees," he says to himself before he notices an arc of flame cross the sky. He watches as an aeroplane with engines ablaze struggles over his Bloomsbury house, and waits for the explosion that never comes. He is unsettled, wondering if this presages a terrorist attack. How quickly one's life can alter, he thinks, and how curious not to know for sure.
He tiptoes downstairs where his son Theo is drinking a cup of tea. Perowne is as proud of Theo, who is already at just 18 one of the world's leading blues guitarists, as he is of his daughter Daisy, the foremost young poet of her generation, who is returning home from Paris this evening for the first time in six months. He switches on the news to find there was no terrorist incident and that the plane has landed safely. What strange tricks the mind can play, he thinks.
Henry returns upstairs. Rosalind welcomes him and they make love passionately. He loves her now as much as the day his dexterity saved her from blindness more than 20 years ago. "I love you only," he whispers. "I adore you, too," she replies.
He drives towards his weekly squash match with Strauss. The streets are blocked because of the anti-war march. Henry can see the case both for and against the invasion of Iraq. How complicated life can be, he thinks, when you think so deeply and so philosophically and are yet so happy. A car brushes past him and breaks off his wing mirror. Three men get out and threaten him. One, Baxter, hits him in the chest. Perowne looks him in the eye and diagnoses Huntington's disease. The news confuses Baxter, who backs off.
Bugger, thinks Perowne, upset at having lost to Strauss, as he drives back from his mother's. He should be more disturbed by her Alzheimer's but he's concentrating on his happiness.
The evening is not devoid of tension. Daisy is withholding something and Rosalind's father is drunk, but the mood is mellowing when Baxter breaks in and threatens them with a knife. He orders Daisy to get undressed and Henry observes she is pregnant. Theo tenses his heroic muscular physique and pushes Baxter to the ground.
Henry must perform emergency surgery on Baxter. He harvests two long strips of pericranium and repairs the tear in the dura. He flicks his gloves. Whatever Baxter may have done, he was owed another chance.
He and Rosalind fall into each others arms. "Everything's going to be happy," he says. And now the day is over.