For Emily Pool, India is a magical place where she has the freedom to escape her mother's suffocating influence. Her days are spent exploring the canals and gardens of East Bengal, and admiringly observing her glamorous, dignified neighbours, the Nikolides. But just as the cracks in Emily's family home are papered over, so do the Pools strive to maintain an outward impression of respectability, and it is through the Nikolides that Emily is exposed to a world of adult deceit and attrition. And when her beloved dog dies, the event forces a confrontation and reveals to Emily that nothing in the town is quite as it seems . . .