In Thatcher's London, Lilly, a white Muslim nurse, struggles in a state of invisible exile. As Ethiopian refugees gradually fill the flats of the housing estate where she lives, Lilly tentatively begins to share with them her longing for the home she herself once had in Africa and her heartbreaking search for her missing lover.
Back in Haile Selassie's Ethiopia, the young Lilly, born in the 1950s to British parents, now orphaned and full of religious conviction, finds herself living in the city of Harar. She is drawn to the idealistic young doctor, Aziz, himself an outsider in the community. But then convulsions of a new revolutionary order separate them, sending Lilly to an England she has never seen, while Aziz disappears.
Camilla Gibb's evocation of the distinctive world of the ancient city and of its unique religion and culture is vivid and rich. She draws us just as completely into the mind of the older Lilly, emotionally paralysed by her loss. The result is a fascinating and remarkably moving portrayal of a life lived at the cusp of two cultures.