Ruben Oliver's life is coming adrift from its moorings. He has been obliged to take early retirement from his job as a librarian due to 'rationalisation' and the new political realities of South Africa. His wife has died. One of his sons has settled in Australia, the other is about to emigrate to Canada while trying to persuade Ruben that it is too dangerous to remain. The only constants are his old family home, haunted by the ghost of a young slave woman; and his housekeeper, Magrieta, with whom he has a shared history that goes back more than half his life. When Tessa Butler comes out of the rain one night in response to an advertisement for a lodger, Ruben is captivated by her. She restores passion to his life, but brings with her a turbulent past.