Middle-aged siblings, Marion and John Zetland, rattle around the crumbling Georgian townhouse that has been their home since childhood. Timid and childlike, Marion has never had a job, and her more educated brother hasn’t worked since being dismissed from his teaching post at a boarding school twenty years before. She spends her time with her large collection of cuddly toys, dozing in front of the TV and heating the tinned food on which they subsist. John occupies himself with making model aeroplanes and attending to the visitors in the cellar, an unpleasant part of life which Marion does her best to ignore. Who is she to judge whether it’s right or not? John has always known better than her and, as the reader discovers as the story unfolds, her parents, teachers and schoolmates were never any help in teaching her how to be a person.