When eleven-year-old Henrietta arrives at the Fishers' house in Paris, she is prepared to spend her day between trains looked after by an old friend of her grandmother's. Henrietta longs to see a few sights in the foreign city; little does she know what fascinating secrets the Fisher house itself contains.
For Henrietta finds that her visit coincides with that of Leopold, an intense child who has come to Paris to be introduced to the mother he has never known. In the course of a single day, the relations between Leopold, Henrietta's agitated hostess Naomi Fisher, Leopold's mysterious mother, his dead father, and the dying matriarch in bed upstairs, come to light slowly and tantalizingly. It is as if the whole of the past has led up to this gloomy afternoon, which also holds within it the seeds of a no less tragic future.(19980415)