A young Afro-Guyanese engineer comes to a coastal Kentish village as part of a project to shore up its sea-defences. He boards with an old English woman, Mrs Rutherford, and through his relationship with her discovers the latent violence and raw emotions present in this apparently placid village. He discovers, too, that underlying the village's essential Englishness, echoes of the imperial past resound. In the process, he is forced to reconsider his perceptions of himself and his native Guyana, and in particular to question his engineer's certainties in the primacy of the empirical and the rational. This is a richly intertextual novel which uses reference to the novels of Conrad, Wilson Harris and V.S. Naipaul's 'The Enigma of Arrival' to set up a multi-layered dialogue concerning the nature of Englishness, the legacy of Empire and different perspectives on the nature of history and reality.