Grace Fairfax lives with her dull, conventional husband Tom in a grey manufacturing town in the north of England. At thirty-four she finds that her external life of dreary routine fails to match up to her lush, wistful and dreamy internal life. Norah, her energetic and chaotic friend, is equally settled in her own marriage to an irritable university professor.Then Hugh Miller and his sister Claire descend upon the quiet town. On all four, the hypnotic charm of these two visitors exerts an enchanting spell. And after their departure, life - having been violently disrupted - will never be quite the same again . . .