The few years Mavis Gaunt spent in the village of Shipleigh, Devon, as a wartime evacuee - away from London and her parents' loveless marriage - were sufficient for her to conceive of the place as a heavenly retreat. But it is not until her twenties, with nothing left to keep her in the city, that Mavis decides to head back. Frances, Tom and Robert Upcott are reclusive siblings from a local farm. When Mavis returns to the village, she and Frances strike up an unlikely friendship. As they grow closer, Mavis is drawn into the sequestered life of the farm and begins at last to enjoy a sense of belonging. But a tragic sequence of events one winter's day is set to turn her heaven into a living hell. Mavis is seventy when Eve and her young son Archie turn up unexpectedly in the village. The tentative friendship that develops between them prompts Mavis to put together a collection of memories and treasures: her inventory.