The novel follows the lives of two families across three generations. At the heart of the novel is a Japanese woman, Hiroko. Young and in love with a German man, Konrad Weiss, her leap into love, marriage and sexual awakening is cut brutally short by the devastating bomb, which kills her father and fiance.
She flees Japan to India, to live with Konrad’s half-sister, Ilse who, under the name of Elizabeth Burton is (unhappily) married to a stiff-upper-lipped Brit, James Burton. She falls in love with Ilse’s son Henry’s tutor, Sajjad. Partition happens, making it impossible for Sajjad and Hiroko to return to Delhi.