'When I was nine, in the city now called Kyoto, I changed my fate...What I asked for? Any life but this one.' When Aurelia flees the fire that kills her missionary uncle and leaves her orphaned and alone in nineteenth-century Japan, she has no idea how quickly her wish will be answered. Knowing only a few words of Japanese she hides in a tea house and is adopted by the family who own it: gradually falling in love with both the tea ceremony and with her young mistress, Yukako. As Aurelia grows up she devotes herself to the family and its failing fortunes in the face of civil war and western intervention, and to Yukako's love affairs and subsequent marriage. But her feelings for her mistress are never reciprocated and as tensions mount in the household Aurelia begins to realise that to the world around her she will never be anything but an outsider. A lushly detailed, spellbinding story, "The Teahouse Fire" is an unforgettable debut.