Set against a backdrop of political turmoil, aeing writer Chris Minaar looks back on the women in his life and the impact they've had on him. The trigger for this, after a long writers' block, is the death of Rachel, the woman he loves. Her death is significant partly because she dies young and unexpectedly, and partly because Minaar's love for her has always been one-sided. When Minaar meets her, she is married to another man, George. George has a large role to play in the development of Minaar's relationship with Rachel, and it is because of his good nature and friendship with Minaar that Minaar feels so torn about his love for Rachel.
Exploring his feelings for Rachel leads Minaar to examine his encounters with women throughout his life. He feels that (almost) each one is intrinsically special and has left a unique imprint on him. Many of them have also been entwined with his political anti-apartheid activities over about six decades.
Minaar's memories of women and their impact on him inevitably lead to examination of his relationship with his mother, and in turn with his father. His Afrikaaner background and the hypocricy of his pro-apartheid father (who despises blacks except to the extent that coloured women are good for extra-martial sex) cause Minaar a great deal of discomfort in his younger years, and family relationships are consistently tense and conflictual.