Eleanor Leyden is a rebel, a 'girl that spells trouble'. When her communist parents are killed in the car crash which also leaves her maimed, she is fostered by family friends, Dermot and Angela O'Driscoll. But as she grows up, she feels increasingly stifled by their middle-class Catholic values. Bursting into 'defiant flame', she rejects their conservative world as she becomes a stonemason and seeks solace in a forbidden love affair that only further entraps her. Two women inspire her flight - her outspoken Aunt Katherine and her precocious schoolfriend Louise. With Louise she discovers the 'exhilaration of departure' as they travel to France and Greece. Here, when their intense bond shifts from warm banter to sexual rivalry and desire, Eleanor learns that she must face the world 'herself, clear, alone'.