Ginger is in her late 40s and a recovering alcoholic.
Unable to have children of her own, she’s convinced that adoption is the way forward.
Her husband Paul is less than sure, but agrees to house a poor inner-city child for a few weeks over summer as part of a charitable initiative to provide deprived children with a countryside holiday.
And so Velvet enters their lives: wary, verbally abused by her mother and overwhelmed by the wealth – material and emotional – that Ginger lavishes on her.
Velvet is sometimes grateful, sometimes grasping, especially when a horse named Fiery Girl comes into the picture.
The Mare is a devastatingly good novel; an unflinching but compassionate look at the social and emotional divides that separate us and how, even with the best of intentions, damage can be done.
The Mare by Mary Gaitskill (Serpent’s Tail, £14.99) is out now.