Bright, stylish Katherine is offered a place to study philosophy by Jacob Goldman. She little expects to find herself in the Goldmans' home, a rambling house in Sussex, while Jacob's untidy but enchanting wife Jane gives birth to their sixth child, little Rosie does headstands, stroppy Jonathan goes off fishing and Roger wins her heart by playing beautiful music on his violin. Katherine and Roger embark on a love affair that ends in tears and she leaves for Rome.
It is 1995, and brilliant Australian Caroline can command everyone, except her own ghoulish mother. This means that things aren’t easy for Josh and Zoe, her husband and 12-year-old daughter. Josh teaches mime in Bristol and Zoe reads girls’ ballet books and longs for ballet lessons. Meanwhile, on the east coast of Africa, Hattie Thomas, Josh’s first love, has taken to writing girls’ ballet books from the turret of her fabulous house.
Alison has two failed marriages under her belt, a house full of junk and an assortment of 'bohemian' friends. When she meets Noah ,she finds a serenity never thought possible: until Noah goes away to a conference and things start to go wrong.