Rereading ‘The Fallen Idol’, I was struck afresh by the vivid precision and precise concision of its structure and imagery, and the brilliant conceit of using a seven-year-old boy as the viewpoint in a story about an adulterous affair involving the boy’s parents’ butler. The boy is damaged for life by what happens, but it’s the butler’s wife comes of worst, in all senses. It’s necessary for the story that she be unsympathetic, of course - as far as the boy is concerned, she’s a figure of unwelcome authority that spoils his fantasies, a nightmare intruder who at one point is described as a witch. And because she is such an unsympathetic character, we are able to feel sympathy for the butler, betrayed by the boy’s innocence. Yet I can’t help wondering about how different the story might be if the child left in the care of the butler and his wife had been a little girl; how she might have colluded with the cheated wife instead of the cheating husband, and how she might have been ruined in quite a different way.