The last Eve saw of her mother was a wave from the basket of a rising balloon. A wilful, lonely orphan in the house of her erratic artist guardian, Eve struggles to retain the image of her missing mother and the father she never knew. In a London beset by pageantry, incipient riot and the fear of Napoleonic invasion, Eve must grow into a young woman with no one to guide her through its perils.
Far away, in a Norfolk fishing village, the Rev Snead preaches hellfire and damnation to his impoverished parishioners and oppressed wife. Snead illustrates his sermons with the example of a mute woman pulled from the sea, over whom he keeps a very close watch indeed.