Every summer the Blair family went to Italy - to the villa in The Garden, a lush wilderness of cypress trees and bougainvillea tumbling down to the sea. Phoebe, who owned the vill and lived close by, loved the Blairs - of all her summer guests they were the ones who gave meaning to her life. She was possessive, enigmatic, manipulative, but Will and Lorna never really minded - until the fifth summer.
Something was wrong even before they arrived. There was a tension, a distance between Lorna and Will, something strange that Lorna could not quite define. The children were equally off-balance - Debbie overweight and rebellious, Fergus tortured and falling in love for the first time. And into this uneasy gathering of friends, family, and lovers, burst Bruno Andreotti, handsome, greedy, selfish, much loved by women but giving nothing of himself to any of them. Bruno was to prove the catalyst that blue the fifth summer apart, making Will and Lorna and the two children reassess and finally rebuild the structure of their lives.