'A life lived in fear is a life half lived,' Clementine Hope's sister, Ophelia, is fond of quoting to her. Clementine, thirty-something and newly divorced, lives in a small Hampshire town, teaching music and working on a collection of fairy tales left to her by her Great Aunt Elvira. But mostly she worries. She worries about the rising crime rate. She worries about disease and illness, about offending God and, in the rare moments when she is at peace with Him, about upsetting the man in the carpet shop or Mrs Challis who runs the cafe where she meets with her friend Jessica. Clementine enjoys as little of the life around her as any Sleeping Beauty, Just as she thinks she has found love with Nathaniel Scott, the son of her next-door neighbour, her fears cause her to lose him. Then, at a moment of a real crisis, Clementine sees the destructive quality of her life and resolves to change and make amends.