Paul’s charmed life is over. He is about to be kicked out of his flat in gentrified east London and his sister has gone missing after an argument about what to do with the house where they grew up. Now that their mother is dead this is the last link they have to the ever-more-diminished town on England’s north-west coast where they grew up. He meets Emily Nardini, a reclusive and uncompromising writer. Her books are narrated by outcasts, but she receives him in her home in the wealthiest part of west London. Paul discovers Emily is living with Andrew Lancaster, a famous intellectual who is significantly older than her. Andrew has lived a successful life, and Paul has not. But perhaps this situation should be reversed, thinks Paul, who forms an alliance with Andrew’s daughter, Sophie, a journalist gaining attention for her hot takes on sex and revolution.