After the collapse of 'Aquazure', his swimming pool construction business, Larry and Miriam Kendall have exiled themselves to a sleepy French village. When Miriam is summoned to her mother's deathbed in Oxford, Larry begins to formulate a dazzling new idea: the creation of the most beautiful, the most artistic swimming pool of all. Around them, Rose Tremain weaves the intricate fabric of the lives of two communities: Miriam's mother, Leni, clever, beautiful and arrogant. Polish Nadia, tortured by the passions of her sad and guilty past. Gervaise the peasant woman - content with her boisterous German lover and confused husband. And the young tearaway Xavier, in love with the virginal Agnes.