Aaron Sisson, is a union official in the coal mines of the English Midlands, trapped in a stale marriage. He is also an amateur, but talented, flautist. At the start of the story he walks out on his wife and two children and decides on impulse to visit Italy. His dream is to become recognised as a professional musician. During his travels he encounters and befriends Rawdon Lilly, who nurses Aaron back to health when he is taken ill in post-war London.