Ravaged by the closing events of World War II, Japan in this novel is an ancient society struggling to cope with the brutal implications of defeat in modern warfare. Aldred Leith, military hero and son of a famous novelist, has come to Eastern Asia to observe firsthand the subject matter of a book he intends to write. There he meets Helen, the teenaged daughter of a local Australian commander, and becomes captivated by her ability to live vicariously through literature. Despite their differences in age, the two gradually are drawn to one another. Both must heal from the recent global horrors before regaining the capacity to love.