This novel deals with some wealthy, displaced Europeans in Egypt and- in particular- with Daniela, who grows up in her grandmother's luxurious, complex household, among half-sensed past intrigues and mysteriously limited social territories. Eventually she learns that her grandmother was the mistress of a rich Jew and that she as well as other members of the family will never find acceptance. To the women and servants of this half world, marriage is a woman's most important goal. At her grandmother's death, Daniela goes to live with a half-uncle and his wife. She travels and observes more of this stigmatized society, and eventually she becomes the mistress of a young man who lives off a rich older woman. Ultimately, during the war, she breaks off with him and falls in love with a serious young Italian, Enzo. But Enzo's poverty, the loss of the social graces she has known, and the general dissolution of her old world is too much. Perhaps accidentally, she drowns.... Part novel, part report, this is a well-informed, inside account of an exotic, rootless world, and it is told with an objectivity that does not preclude warmth.