This is the story of two women. One of those women is Lady Sheringham, interviewed in her manor house, the other is Emma Piggott, who has just passed away in her London apartment, alone.
To the former, life has been kind. She's gone from Shanghai to Hong Kong to Kuala Lumpar, from governess to sultana. She lives in the lap of luxury, engaged in an endless cycle of drinks parties, outings on horseback and the delicious little scandals of the British colonial community. This is a woman destined never to know hardship, other than the loss of loved ones.
Emma Piggott, a teacher at St. John's, has lived a gray and stagnant life, experiencing Asia only through newspaper articles that she carefully cuts out collects, but never leaving the Whitechapel neighborhood where her parents kept a grocery store.
And yet, something unites these two women--a little detail, nothing at all really, mere chance, or perhaps just a nightmare that troubles Lady Sheringham's sleep from time to time...