After her mother dies, Rice, an awkward but highly imaginative teenager, is sent to live at the Water's Edge, a gloriously ramshackle Bournemouth hotel. There she meets Beatrice, an old school friend of her mother's, and her witchily beautiful daughter, Esther. Rice gradually falls for the world of the hotel - its rhythms and routines, its eccentric guests, and its rich history, which touches upon her own identity. She also begins to fall for Esther. Watching over her like a guardian angel is the figure of Persephone, who each year is washed up to Bournemouth from Hades, and who finds herself equally seduced by the Water's Edge, which for her offers an intriguing window on the mortal world.