Sally, Kate and Marienka. Three young women who meet as undergraduates in 1970s Oxford and share their romantically shabby canalside house with Max Bellinger -- clever, attractive, enigmatic Max. Sally -- our narrator --idolises Max, who is something of an homme fatale. But it is Max's wayward rock singer brother, Marty, who is to play the most important role in her life, when one of his songs (for which she provided the lyrics) becomes an unexpected hit. Although their paths diverge once they leave Oxford, Sally stays in touch with all the housemates and their lives remain interwoven throughout the momentous second half of the twentieth century.