Gabriella has many siblings and more animals. Her father is an impoverished poet with a penchant for mending cars with string and optimism, her mother a classicist now more concerned with trying to keep track of spiralling chaotic family life than the declining of verbs.
Gabriella and her brothers run amuck through the attics and wilderness garden of their home, Mildney. Here she observes and experiences the triumphs and pitfalls of belonging to a wayward family, and longs for conformity. Her failure to achieve it is absolute.