Aisla, a grammar school girl from Shropshire, marries Joe, an RAF sergeant stationed in Egypt. There her friendship with Mona, a Palestinian concert pianist, blossoms and flourishes as Aisla tastes new freedoms that cross dangerous racial, sexual and social boundaries. Private and political worlds collide as the Suez crisis looms closer and her marriage reaches a painful, destructive and violent crisis that impacts on her daughter's future.
In Egypt Ailsa had lived. Truly lived, with an expanded horizon. She must take her expanded world now and shrink it back into her allotted space. It's over she thought, and relief mingled with the gravest disappointment she could remember sustaining since realising that university was closed to her. All her life ... she'd been kept in a box with a few inadequate peepholes, amongst folk who took the inside of that box for the limits of the world.