Iris is regretful of the past, in a way, but she also longs for it. In writing her novel within a novel, on which the title of the book is based, she is actually telling of her own affair with Alex. At the time of the telling, Iris is an old woman. She longs for a youth that is behind her. Her marriage to Richard was a marriage for money and security and to save her family's business. It was never about happiness. Iris takes on the role of the beautiful but dumb wife as a pretense and as a means of dealing with Richard's abusive nature. However, when she discovers the extent of Richard's corruption she does not know what option she should take. Laura, her sister, as we learn in the opening of the novel, manages to escape through suicide. Iris' escape comes in the form of the affair and the novel that she writes. Iris is unhappy with her life, unhappy with her past, and wishes that her own affair with Richard would have been like the love story her characters are engaged in. In a sense, she lives and comes alive through her own fantasy world that she creates and it becomes her escape.