'I am sixteen. I am as old as the century'It is 1916. Vincent is sixteen, on the brink of manhood. Vincent is aristocratic and privileged, frequenting the salons of Paris while France is at war and the city almost deserted of men. In that brutal summer, Vincent's beauty and precocity captivate two men: Marcel, some thirty years his senior, a writer and celebrated socialite; and Arthur, the twenty-one year old son of one of the servants, who is now a soldier at the front. Both relationships become love affairs of a kind - of the mind or of the body. Vincent intuitively tries to keep his passions separate, but over the weeks of indolent Parisian summer and far-off war, confidences are made, absences endured, secrets revealed. All of these men will suffer, and Vincent will lose the last vestiges of his childhood innocence. In the Absence of Men is a stunning first novel: in its daring in representing Marcel Proust as a character, in the beauty of its prose and in its delicacy of feeling. It is a quite remarkable debut.