Shirley, daughter of one of Wellington’s leading families, her father a Supreme Court judge, returns to New Zealand at the outbreak of WWII with an Oxford degree. She seeks a husband who will help her live a fulfilling life. She begins an affair with the dazzling Bill, born to an impoverished family but triumphantly educating himself into the higher reaches of Wellington and international society, a democrat who treats his inferiors as equals. Ten years older than Shirley, he divorces his wife to marry her. Shirley strives to achieve a life of her own, but she is always in his shadow—a position she accepts, not without bridling, admiring him so. When their lives explode she is left wondering just who it was she married.