Alice has a scrupulously organised, comfortable life in West London with Noel – her second husband whose main ambition in life is to sharpen his golf handicap in time for retirement. But when Alice’s once-famous, bohemian mother Jocelyn, residing in shabby splendour in a crumbling cliff-top house in Cornwall becomes ill, Alice goes to look after her, taking her daughter and stepson.
She is appalled by what she finds. Her glorious childhood home is falling into decay, her brother and his wife take more notice of the illegal substances being grown in the vegetable garden than in domestic arrangements, and their twin sons run wild, living according to the tenets of the SAS Survival manual.
Noel thinks that Jocelyn should be moved into sensible, sheltered accommodation but the children love the freedom and beauty that they discover in Cornwall, and Alice begins to wonder if the way of life she has chosen the right one . . .