It is set in 'The May of Teck Club', established by Princess May of Teck during the First World War "for the Pecuniary Convenience and Social Protection of Ladies of Slender Means below the age of Thirty Years, who are obliged to reside apart from their Families in order to follow an Occupation in London". It concerns the lives and loves of its desperate residents amongst the deprivations of immediate post-war Kensington between VE Day and VJ Day in 1945. The frame story, set in 1963, concerns the news that Nicholas Farringdon, an anarchist intellectual turned Jesuit, has been killed in Haiti. Journalist Jane Wright, a former inhabitant of the Club, wants to research the backstory of the priest's martyrdom. The bulk of the novella is taken up by flashbacks to 1945, concerning Farringdon and the Club. The narrative slowly builds up to the unfolding of a tragedy that killed Joanna Childe, the elocution instructor, and led to Farringdon's conversion through the evil heartlessness he perceived in Selina's behavior.