Ruben Oliver's life is coming adrift from its moorings. He has been forced to take early retirement from his job as a librarian and adjust to the new political realities of South Africa. His wife has died. One of his sons has settled in Australia, the other is about to emigrate to Canada. His best friend and neighbour, Johnny MacFarlane, has been brutally murdered. The only constants are his old family home in the suburbs of Cape Town, haunted by the ghost of a young slave woman; and his housekeeper, Magrieta, with whom he has a shared history that goes back more than half his life. The beautiful Tessa Butler comes out of the rain one night in response to an ad for a lodger. Ruben is captivated by her. She restores passion to his life, but brings with her a turbulent past and a complex love life as well as demons from the world outside his home.