Anna Parrish and Ruby Smith have been intimate friends from childhood. Anna is blonde, coolly interrogative, more traditionally beautiful and, in subtle senses, dominant. Ruby is dark-haired, more impulsive, less classically attractive and, in small but important ways, allows Anna to lead.
Now young women, they plan a rendezvous at an artists' workshop in the country in central France. In the charged world as the sixties turn into the seventies, their lives are full of sensual imagining, the desire for freedom and questing ardour for what they haven't yet discovered. Having visited some friends briefly, Ruby heads to their meeting-place, only to discover that Anna has never arrived, and that the workshops are next to useless. Acting on surmise and rumour she follows the trail that she thinks Anna will have taken, to the south and the marshy wilds of the Camargue. There she meets Caleb 'Caley' Hanson, an American poet, friend of Ruby's friends, and Anna's happenstance lover for a single night. He is also looking for Anna, trying to understand why she left so suddenly. He and Ruby find some solace together, and perhaps the beginnings of something more, enveloped in the burning heat, pungent smells and rich tastes of a southern summer.
But Anna isn't there. Where has she gone? Is there something sinister underneath her absence? Or is she simply following her own lead as usual? Ruby and Caley set off north again to try to find out, and drive headlong into a totally unexpected situation that challenges them to their utmost.
In this sensuous, dreamlike work, first published in 1971, Rosalind Brackenbury probes the intense and complex territory of friendship and love as it ebbs and flows in young hearts and minds responding to the call of a brave new world. The precise command of seductive poetic evocation, which has since become the singular hallmark of her writing, is already astonishingly mature in this, her second novel.