Not always comfortable intimacies, sometimes the irritating and constraining types, although as one of them observes, that's a matter of how you choose to look at things. "This was the end of the honeymoon; or, if you prefer it, their life was one long honeymoon." As this statement suggests, times are changing, not only at the personal level, but in a broader sense; Riceyman Steps was once a thriving community but those days are long gone and, seemingly, unlikely to return. The business model that Mr. Earlforward follows is static and the bookstore's popularity wanes, although a certain bookishness remains.
It is a novel about relationships (business, community, marital) characterized by pride, fear, and loneliness. In many ways, it is a sad story (in the way that some of Barbara Pym's stories are sad), but that, too, could be said to be all about a reader's perspective. Another reader might see this as a story about "[s]imple souls, somehow living very near the roots of happiness -- though precariously."