Marianne Clifford, teenage daughter of a peppery army colonel and his vain wife, Lal, falls helplessly and absolutely for Simon Hurst, 18, whose cleverness and physical beauty suggest that he will go forward into a successful and monied future, helped on by doting parents. But fate intervenes. Simon's plans are blown off course, and Marianne is forced to bury her dreams of a future together. Narrating her own story, characterising herself as ignorant and unworthy, Marianne's telling use of irony and smart thinking gradually suggest to us that she has underestimated her own worth. We begin to believe that - in the end, supported by her courageous Scottish friend, Petronella - she will find the life she never stops craving. But what we can't envisage is that beneath his blithe exterior, Simon Hurst has been nursing a secret which will alter everything.