After 18 years away spent as a waitress and writer in London, Paris, Dublin and Boston, Liz Miller returns to her home town of Whitby following her mother’s death. Her respectable elder sister Kate, a university lecturer married to artist Duncan, with an 18 year-old daughter, Perdita, joins her to dismantle the family home. Their relationship is uneasy, as both of them guard their own secrets. Liz is fleeing from a failed relationship with her girlfriend in Boston; Kate is reluctant to admit that Duncan is having an affair, and that Perdita has been suspended from school for taking drugs. And there’s another much deeper secret, buried in the sisters’ past, which neither wishes to confront.
While they’re clearing out the house they discover diaries written in the 1920s by their grandmother Laura, which tell of their grandfather’s death and Laura’s subsequent trial for murder. Liz and Kate are appalled – they knew nothing of their family’s dark history – and determine to uncover the truth. But as they delve into their grandmother’s complex story, which takes place in bohemian Paris in the 20s and 30s, they are forced to confront their own shared past and to make stark choices about the future.