The narrator is an urbane, cynical and egocentric Italian journalist with little interest in the truth, though not as shabby as his companion, a professor of politics. The journalist meets people across the spectrum of ideas, and the book concerns not just political events, but how people interrelate within a social context, Scotland's place in Europe and how Europeans interpret each other. The Italian encounters a range of Europeans: a Ukrainian nationalist, a Russian religious guru, an eccentric Estonian, an Algerian refugee, a Lithuanian, a dying man and many Scots from different walks of life. The narrator falls in love with a Scottish campaigner. Beneath the urbane veneer, he's a complex mix of the old-fashioned and the fashionable, and the relationship soon encounters problems. The Italian, like Voltaire's Candide, starts with a mindset incapable of bringing him either understanding or lasting contentment, and ends the book with some understanding and awareness, insufficient for the elusive happiness we all seek but sufficient for a perfectly acceptable human existence.