The novel takes place in England in the early sixties. The heroine of the novel, Emma Evans, on whose behalf the story is narrated, recalls the events that happened to her a few months earlier.
Emma’s husband David is an actor. He acts mainly on television, but once the famous theater director Wyndham Ferrer invites him to take part in a theater festival, which he organizes in a small provincial town Hereford, where a new theater opens. The work is interesting – he is offered several main roles, but Emma does not want to leave London even for six months.
Emma and David met four years ago. Emma was a pretty well-known model and model. One day she accidentally saw David on the television studio, and a week later they suddenly found themselves in one compartment of the train. There they met, they had a violent romance, and a few months later they got married. According to Emma herself, “they got married in a hurry, and repented slowly”. The daughter of Flora was born, Emma spent most of her time at home, went, as they say, “everyday life that extinguished passion.” When Flora was about two years old, Joe was born.
Joey is now seven months old, Emma is at home, though she has an au pair – a young Frenchwoman Pascal, but Emma suckles Joe and is still tied to the house. Her name is to work on television – read the news and announce the programs, and Emma would be happy to agree, but then Wyndham Ferrer appears with her proposal.
During one of the quarrels, David hits the wall with his fist, Emma’s favorite wallpapers are bursting, the wall is cracking. Perhaps, Evans’ married life is also bursting at the seams?
True, after going to Hereford, Emma is delighted with this small town, by the way, the homeland of many famous English actors – Garrick, Campbell, Sarah Siddons, Nell Gwyn. Returning to London, Emma contacts real estate agencies and soon finds an old house on the first floor of which was once a stable, and now – a garage, and removes it for her family. Emma generally hates everything standard – clothes, shelter, furniture. Dresses extravagantly, buys on the ruins of some unthinkable hats and dresses, adores Victorian furniture and trinkets. And he also likes unusual at home. Therefore, having moved to Hereford, Emma is horrified by the fact that the house owner furnished the house with modern, faceless furniture. And David is quite calm about this situation – it’s only convenience that matters to him.
Almost immediately after the arrival of Emma and David go to the reception arranged by the municipality in honor of the touring troupe. There she meets with actors who will work together with David – a pretty, but silly Sophie Brent, Natalie Winter’s prima and others. At the reception, she sees a couple of decent bourgeois Scott, with whose daughter Mary she once studied in school. And after the reception a few actors gather in the house of David and Emma, but Emma is not too interested in their eternal talk about the theater.
The life of Emma in Hereford gradually enters the impaled rut. In the morning – shops, then walk with children, in the afternoon she sometimes goes to a cafe with actors, in the evening – either goes to the theater, or spends time at the TV. David rehearses a lot – he is busy in two plays: he plays Ferrer in the “White Devil”, another director, Selin, he plays in “The Secret Marriage”. Once in the foyer of the theater Emmu notices Ferrer and draws her attention. On the day of the dress rehearsal of the “White Devil”, Emma comes to the theater, the rehearsal is delayed, and already late at night, when the theater suddenly turns off the light, Emma,... going to go home, encounters in a dark corridor with Ferrer, who appoints her a date.
Her strange romance with Ferrer begins. They meet almost every week, go to dinner in a small restaurant in Wales, walk around the neighborhood Hereford. They must be in love with each other, but Emma does not want to become his mistress. Does she understand that for Ferrer she is just another hobby, or does not want to betray David. Once, after returning home from Ferrer’s home, Emma feels that the apartment smells of gas, and, running into the kitchen, sees that the gas tap is open. Fortunately, nothing terrible is happening, but Emma thinks about what might happen, stay for another couple of hours.
Once Ferrer, referring to the fact that he is sick, calls Emma to his home. And Emma is frying him eggs and bacon, seeing the sink littered with plates, washing dishes, and when Ferrer tries to hug her, ironically asks if he was going to ask her to sew him a torn button.
But their strange relations still continue. Emma realizes that they will not lead to anything serious, but still does not tear them.
One evening after the next premiere, Ferrer escorts her home, and on the first floor of Evans’ house they accidentally discover passionately kissing Sophie Brent and David. This incident, David and Emma ignore, but Emma understands that David and Sophie are romance, and, apparently, not at all platonic. The next morning, David just as silently leaves, and Emma thinks that sometimes the couple live, almost without talking for life. Can all conflicts be due to the fact that the mechanism of communication is disorganized between people, because they have nothing to say to each other?
But Ferrer still wants to find out the relationship with Emma. In the daytime he meets her and the children who are walking around the park and begins to accuse Emma of being too busy with her children, paying no attention to David or to him, Ferrer, And then Emma with horror sees Flora playing at pond, slips and falls into the water. Emma rushes after her daughter and takes her to the beach. Wyndham leads the drenched Emma with the flora and Joseph home. Flora remembers with horror for several days what happened to her, afraid of water. And Emma just falls ill with a severe cold. After a few days, seeing that Emma can not recover, the doctor advises David to take the children out on a picnic, to give Emma a full rest. When the family leaves, Emma visits Wyndham. He goes in and see Emma, and say goodbye before leaving for London. But how can a wounded man calm down, that the woman he had been courting so many months had not become his mistress? Emma is given to him, but understands that their relationship can not be changed. She does not like him, although, perhaps, she could have, if she lived differently. When leaving, Wyndham asks to hold him. Emma goes down, and Wyndham’s car drives into her garage when she leaves the garage.
Emma’s feet are badly crumpled, and she has to lie in bed until the end of the summer. One day she receives a letter from Wyndham, in which he talks about his new plans. In the letter there are “charming grammatical flaws”. “Poor Wyndham,” Emma thinks, “it’s clear that it’s a steep impostor: everything in it seems first-class, but there is no real quality.”
Recovering Emma reads a lot. She “roars, weeps with real tears” over the poems of Wordsworth – there is so much undiluted truth in them. He also reads Hume and thinks about his phrase: “A man and a woman must join an alliance for the sake of educating the younger generation, and such an alliance must be sufficiently long-term.”