This is the story of eight-year-old Margaret Marsh. Daughter of overly-religious sectarian parents, Margaret finds little affection at home. Margaret's main caretaker is a bawdy servant, taken in by her father as a sort of religious project. Lydia is the most challenging of converts, she is also the only member of the household who shows Margaret much affection. Margaret's mother is overworked and overtired, and chaffing at the boundaries of her religious life. Margaret's father is everyone's holier-than-thou nightmare.
During the summer an indiscretion on the part of Margaret's father sets in motion a series of events that will end in tragedy. The plot of this book is quite straightforward. It is the elaborate details, rather than the plot, that give this book its brilliance. Gardam does not stray away from the absurd. She reminds me much of Barbara Comyns. This is a well-executed book, well-worth the time to read.