A young Englishwoman working in Naples, Jenny comes to Italy fleeing a history that threatened to undo her. Alone in the fabulously ruined city, she idly follows up a letter of introduction from an acquaintance and so changes her life forever. Through the letter, she meets Gioconda, a beautiful and gifted writer, and Gianni, a Roman film director and Gioconda's lover. At work she encounters Justin, a Scotsman enigmatically attractively. As she becomes increasingly involved in the lives of these three, she discovers that the past—and the patterns of a lifetime—are not easily discarded.