Elspeth, a young Scottish actress, is selected by the elusive impresario Lord Coak for an acting career on the Caribbean Island of Barbados. She is briefly feted by the island community, but a tempest kills her lover and destroys the theatre in which she is to star. She is obliged to take on a supposedly temporary and ambiguous role at Lord Coak's plantation home. The closed environment of the estate is stifling, but it institutionalises her and gives her a degree of status. Dolan's plot takes some unexpected twists, but Elspeth is never free from the constrictions of working for an enterprise whose founding principle is racism. An oppressive sense of eventlessness pervades. Lord Coak's grand plan to modernise the estate cannot be implemented without social reform, but the resulting suspension of lives could also be seen as the human condition: our dreams can never be realised. Another catastrophic event breaks the spell and divides the community, many of whom leave in search of a more enlightened society and in so doing become a mythical people. However Elspeth and the reader remain locked into Lord Coak's estate, which starts rapidly to decay.