The story of Henrietta Symons from her birth to her death, and the most perfect account in English fiction of those women who, through the ages, have neither married nor loved, the spinster, the maiden aunt, the surplus woman. Henrietta is the third daughter in a large Victorian family, the misfit girl without the beauty or the talent to be loved. Querulous, bad-tempered, her meaningless life passes aimlessly by. But Henrietta has one saving grace. She knows herself for what she is, and self-knowledge, however bitter, turns her life of defeat into a certain kind of victory.